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Ida Applebroog, Patsy Bcckert, 

Lyn Blumenthaljoan Braderman, 

Cynthia Carr, Lenora Champagne, 

Man' Beth Edelson, Sandra De Sando, 

Su Friedrich, Janet Froclich, 
Vanalyne Green, Harmony Hammond, 
Sue Heinemann, Lyn Hughes, 
Joyce Kozloff, Arlene Ladden, 
Ellen Lanyon, Nicky Lindeman, 
Lucy Lippard, Melissa Meyer, 
Mart}' Pottenger, Carrie Rickey, 
Elizabeth Sacre, Miriam Schapiro, 
Amy Sillman, Joan Snyder, 
Elke Solomon, Pat Steir, 
May Stevens, Michelle Stuart, 
Susana Torre, Cecilia Vicuna, 
Elizabeth Weatherford, Sally Webster, 
Nina Yankowitz, Holly Zox 
Vivian E. Browne, Ada Ciniglio, 
Elaine Lustig Cohen, Eleanor Munro, 
Linda Nochlin, Barbara Quinn, 
Jane Rubin, Ann Sperrv, 

Rose Weil 
Emma Amos, Gail Bradney, 
Kathie Brown, Josely Carvaliio, 
C. Palmer Fuller, Michele Godwin, 
Pennelope Goodfriend, Kathy Grove, 
Elizabeth Hess, Kay Kenny, 
Avis Lang, Robin Michals, 
Sabra Moore, Carrie Mover, 
Linda Peer, Ellen Rumm, 
Faith Wilding 
Kay Kenny, office manager 
Jo Tavener, circulation manager 
Gail Bradney, production manager 
Priscilla Barton, Helen Duberstein, 
Jan Evans, Pennelope Goodfriend, 

Wopo Holup, Avis Lang 
With thanks to Linda Swackhamer, 
Gerry Pearlberg, Gail Bradney, Kathie 
Brown and Sabra Moore. 

Fabio Alvaro, Eric Ehn, Keith 
Gunderson, Esther Kaplan, Patricia Seator, 
Gina Shamus, Jo Tavener, Mark Tuchman, 
Man- Tyson, Risa Wallberg, Leslie 
Watkins, Andrew A. Webster, Deborah 
Winterson, Joanna Zlowodzka 
Carline Vago and Chris Caron, 

Drawbridge Studio 
Special thanks to Finn Winterson. 
Strong Silent Type/SST 
Printed by Wickersham Printing, 
Lancaster, PA 




I mm 

this issue is 



















HERESIES is an idea-oriented journal devoted to the exami- 
nation of art and politics from a feminist perspective. We 
believe that what is commonly called art can have a political 
impact and that in the making of art and all cultural artifacts 
our identities as women play a distinct role. We hope that 
HERESIES will stimulate dialogue around radical political 
and aesthetic theory, as well as generate new creative ener- 
gies among women. It will be a place where diversity can be 
articulated. We are committed to broadening die definition 
and function of art. 

HERESIES is published by a collective of feminists, some 
of whom are also socialists, marxlsts, lesbian feminists, or 
anarchists; our fields include painting, sculpture, writing, 
andiropology, literature, performance, art history, archi- 
tecture, filmmaking, photography, and video. While the 
themes of the individual issues will be determined by the 
collective, each issue will have a different editorial staff, 
composed of members of the mother collective and other 
women Interested in that theme. HERESIES provides expe- 
rience for women who work editorially, in design, and in 
production. An open evaluation meeting will be held after 
the appearance of each issue. HERESIES will try to be ac- 
countable to and in touch with the international feminist 

As women, we are aware that historically the connections 
between our lives, our arts, and our Ideas have been sup- 
pressed. Once these connections are clarified, they can 
function as a means to dissolve the alienation between art- 
ist and audience, and to understand the relationship be- 
tween art and politics, work and workers. As a step toward 
the demystiflcation of art, we reject the standard relatlon- 

shipofcriticismtoartwithinthepresentsysti m ufiuliIi..H 
often become the relationship of advertiser to product. We 
will not advertise a new set of genius-products just because 
they are made by women. We are not commltl ed to any par- 
ticular style or aesthetic, nor to the competitive mentality 
that pervades the art world. Our view of feminism Is one of 
process and change, and we feel that in the process of this 
dialogue we can foster a change in the meaning of art. 

Heresies: A Feminist Publication on Art & I'nlUKs l\ 
published two times a year by Heresies ColIe» in i Iiu * ti 
Foundation for the Community of Artists, 280 Broadway. 
Suite 412, New York, NY 10007. Subscription rates: Indivi- 
duals, $17/4 Issues, $31/8 issues; institutions, $26/4 issues, 
$48/8 issues. Outside the U.S. and Canada add $2 postage. 
Single copies: $5-50 each. Address all correspondence to: 
Heresies, PO Box 1306, Canal Street Station, NVu Vmk. M 

HERESIES, ISSN 0146-3411. Vol. 6, No. 3, Issue 23. 
© 1988, Heresies Collective, Inc. AH rights reserved. 
This publication is made possible, In part, with public 
funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and die 
National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funds pro- 
vided by New York Community Trust and Coordinating 
Council of Literary Magazines. HERESIES is In«l*xc il l»> il"" 
Alternative Press Centre, Box 7229, Baltimore, MP -l-" 1 - 
and The American Humanities Index, P.O. Box 958, Troy, NY 
12181. HERESIES Is a member of COSMEP (Committee of 
Small Magazine Editors and Publishers), Box 703, San Fran- 
cisco, CA 94101. 


Our deepest thanks to 

the generous folks 

at The Guardian. 


Reaching Fifty (The Process of Aging II) 


Extremities suzannenoguere 
Rented Rooms joan Nicholson 
Gentle Events maystevens 
Right Now is Always the Best Age 


Lost Childhood, Momma's Death aisha eshe 

Fear Sucks mary fuller 

When Eva Boa Went Crazy wendy ann ryden 

Living With Lupus maryferraro 

Mykonos carole stone 

Whispering e.m. broner 

The Crystal Quilt patrice koelsch 

Where's Mother? nancy hall rice, ann thacher 

Seasons of Mist nancy hall rice, ann thacher 

Death of an Old Crone ann marie palmisciano 

After Death sharon olds 

Elena Was Born claudia anne chase 

Before Roe v. Wade: Working at New York's First 
Legal Abortion Clinic sabra moore talking to avis lang 

Michaelangelo Sky toneblevins 

It's Not so Good to be Born a Girl/Sometimes 

Selected Text and Preparation Drawings from the 
Performance Work Dirty Pictures caroleeschneemann 

The Forest of Wild Grass olgacabral 

Some of My Stories rosemary mayer 

Sock Relations Jennifer jean cneill 

The Empty Nest Syndrome Or 
Sing a Song of Solitude hettiejones 

Forty-Five in the Washroom Mirror 


The Jewish-American Princess norar.wainer 

Old Ladies vickirovere 

Coming of Age: Words Where it Counts 


Meeting Gran faith wilding 

On Common Ground helene aylon 

Acceptable in Your Sight lois Griffith 

Genesis rachel Rosenthal 

Pink Clay juliaalvarez 


Blood and Milk kate singer 

As the Process Advances: Women Emerging Within 
a Revolutionary Society maria lourdes meneses 

Olive, Distressed helen duberstein 

Wine for Lunch mary lukanuski 

Big Secrets Barbara freidman 

Acting Our Age 















Untitled mira falardeau 7 

Change of Address carelmoiseiwitsch 8 

Installation and set for Private Places vernitanemec 9 

Fore River maystevens 10 

Me Waxing lyn Randolph 1 3 

Self-Portrait As Nike, Winged Victory 16 


The Graduation esther gilman 16 

Life's Everyday Transformations ann marie rousseau 19 

You, MeandWilla annmeredith 21 

So Help Me Hannah Series: Portrait of the Artist 25 
with her Mother, Selma Butler hannah wilke 

Geraldine Page in the film Table for One 28 

DORIS chase 

From Family Series: #2 susanevejahoda 32 

From Family Series: #16 susanevejahoda 33 

They're Leaving Him Behind 35 


Baby Contest annette savitski 38 

No Longer Afraid susan spencer crowe 40 

Metamorphosis wopoholup 42 

The Theatre of Life From Behind New York Walls 49 
katheryn sins 

Yaro, Aged 10, Just After Her Bath, on the Bed in 50 
Her Room With a Picture of Her Favorite Star 


Mother and Daughter pennelopegoodfriend 57 

Private Parties cay lang 59 

Untitled lyn hughes 64 

Freida deidrescherer 70 

Headless Woman helene brandt 78 

Mirror Image cynthia smith 81 

Terms of Entrapment cynthia smith 82 

Wonder Calavera After Posada carel moiseiwitsch 84 

Revolution norma holt 86 
Two Untitled Pieces judyglantzman 92,93 


It seems to me that coming of age is a coming to consciousness 
of one's own history and one's place in history (the future, as 
well as the present and the past) — a difficult kind of conscious- 
ness to come by in a society that would erase history; in which 
we, especially women, have to unearth our history before we 
can go on to understand it. 

What our editorial project has been about in this issue is the 
notion that this coming to consciousness happens in particularly 
ripe and loaded moments, where the diverse experience of our 
everyday lives seems capable of being connected — where a 
larger understanding becomes visible, even imperative. 

Art is an additional arena where this kind of connection can 
be attempted. And the process of making art, it seems to me, is a 
form of excavation and notation, of bringing to light the rich ma- 
terial of daily life and then reordering it — placing it in a different 
frame in order to see more clearly what's really happening there 
(where it came from and where it may lead), and then going on 
to realize something new. 

In this issue we've had the good fortune to be able to gather 
art that speaks directly to those moments of consciousness that 
could be called coming of age, and thus we have been doing our 
own form of archeology, of recording, and for us this issue's 
publication might itself be considered one of those ripe 


It was snowing as I walked up the hill for the first time to hold 
the first session of the poetry workshop I had contracted to do in 
a nursing home. I could feel the snowflakes melt on my cheeks. 
When I came into the large room several pale figures swaying in 
wheelchairs awaited me. Some dribbled. Many seemed asleep. I 
began to speak of the snowflakes and of how, in my childhood, it 
seemed to me that the first snowflakes of the season came on 
Thanksgiving. I began talking this way out of nervousness. What 
was I doing in this place, with these people who seemed so alike 
and unresponsive? 

The workshop produced poems such as: 

We don't have any cold today like we used to have 
We always had a coal stove 
The diningroom was warm 
I've seen a man spit on the sidewalk 
and it froze that way 

Though they had this "dread disease" of being aged, I realized 
that these people were me, you, everyone. They had led varied 
existences, travelled to faraway places, been teachers, fashion 
designers, parents, lovers, you name it. They wrote of all these 
experiences, and derived pleasure in the present from attention 
to their individual pasts. Being so different, how had they ended 
up lumped into a conglomerate present? 

In any nursing home you will find people who, insofar as they 

could, kept to the social contract. Nevertheless, their lives have 
come to this bleakness. Are we moved to redeem the aged, or to 
punish them? 

Since we see that we live through so many transitions, have so 
many rites of passage, can we not learn to rethink each stage so 
that the successive times in the "lives of women" can be viewed 
as so many new lives that incorporate but are not necessarily 
limited by preceding ones? Can we not recall, if we do not neces- 
sarily repeat, the joys and learn from the frustrations of our own 
previous selves? 

In this issue on Coming of Age, we see women healing them- 
selves. Women value themselves as they appear both to them- 
selves and in the eyes of the other. Mingled with the excitement 
for pieces we have gathered in this issue is regret for those we 
have had to let go of because of space limitations. Those that we 
held on to we came to see as "bearing witness" to the complexity 
of the meaning of women's lives. 




Everyone's reaction to aging is unique. I never thought about ag- 
ing until I realized that this year was going to be my sixtieth 
birthday. Having always thought of myself as somewhere around 
forty I wondered how it all sneaked up on me. And if I am sixty 
then my children are almost forty and . . . Good God, how did 
that happen?? 

Suddenly I felt compelled to look back, review the past, ap- 
praise the present and think about the future, which for the first 
time does not seem to be forever. What were the traps and pit- 
falls, the successes and failures, the unexpected events both 
good and bad? What have I learned and where am I now? 

It has been revealing and rather like watching an old film. I 
think that, in my case, the film-like feeling is the result of a 
wrenching break in my life after thirty years as an artist, wife and 
mother. I had spent that life with single-minded passion as an 
artist while grappling with the logistics of holding a career and 
family obligations together, and suddenly I was plunged into the 
life of an older single woman living alone in a new environment, 
New York City, without any preparation for what I discovered 
was a very particular way of life. I was married at twenty and 
went from my father's house to my husband's house. I didn't live 
alone until I was fifty years old. I discovered that superwoman 
has no clothes. I had to learn to live alone. Now I have some dis- 
tance, more perspective. It has taken time to achieve this. 

Changes have taken place within the family in the last few 
years. I have become a grandmother and my children have be- 
come my friends. My parents, in their eighties, still lead a full and 
active life. But they have, by their own admission, reached an- 
other plateau, become more fragile. While I am coming to grips 
; with the awareness that they will not be here forever, my chil- 
dren are looking toward their own children, their education and 
upbringing. And I, without the traditional partner that fits into 
the traditional family pattern, am somewhere in the middle. I 
may never again be as free as at this moment. 
. , A game of musical chairs is going on. When my parents die, I 
will move into their place and my children will move into mine. 
The buffer of denial will have been removed. It is something to 
:i think about. 

. ; Aging is full of paradoxes. I look out upon the world through 
young eyes, unaware of the physical changes which I do not see. 
At the same time, while feeling ageless, I find myself regarding 
those much younger than myself as from a great distance. I feel 
■surprised that when I go to the bank, to the doctor, to a lawyer, 
that most of them are the age of my children. It all seems so sud- 
den, although of course it is not. 

V Life is continuously surprising and I try to be realistic but not 
^cynical, to rely on my inner strengths and sense of purpose and 
:.:not become distressed with cultural stereotyping and cultural 
? cruelty. I have to keep my eye on the inner design of my being, to 
|know when to hang on and when to let go so that I don't miss the 
■i unexpected and wonderful. I have become a "woman of a cer- 
tain age," a woman with a little more clarity about life, no conclu- 
sions reached as though conclusions are possible. All in all, I like 
•^^yhere I am. I had better. It is very much another beginning. 

_ To my mind, "coming of age" suggests passage, transforma- 
tion, emergence . . . acquisition and renunciation, arrival and de- 
parture ... a process repeatedly undergone by communities and 
generations as well as by individuals . . . birth, puberty, mother- 

hood or no, menopause, death ... coming to consciousness, 
coming into one's/our own, coming out, coming to terms, com- 
ing to the end. Watersheds and landmarks. The escalation of pos- 
sibilities and limitations. Learning to recognize how liberty is 
eroded and to exercise whatever portion of it remains. 

My own most recent passage into a redefined, more sombre 
and angry self started first with facing my companion's cancer; 
then spending nine months almost constantly caring for him, 
away from everyone and everything familiar, as he was slowly 
brought back to life by an innovative physician in Houston; and 
soon thereafter watching a U.S. government goon squad invade 
the doctor's clinic and truck away 200,000 business documents 
and patient medical records. Why? Because Dr. Burzynski pro- 
vides patients with a viable alternative to the treatments offered 
by America's highly toxic, highly profitable cancer industry. Both 
doctor and patients took the government to court, where nearly 



«t 71 


three years later we're still fighting for the most basic of demo- 
cratic rights: life, privacy, choice, due process. The experience 
has produced some very deep tracks in my psyche in the regions 
of taking responsibility, fighting back, terror, fury, and burnout. 
This issue of Heresies, variegated as it is, can nevertheless do 
with a few more works by children, whose own comings of age 
are mostly yet to happen. Here, then, are Eugenie Asher Lang's 
and Stephanie La Motta's projections of their future selves, 
twenty-four and sixty-two years hence — Eugenie (my niece) hit- 
ting her professional stride and Stephanie becoming superflu- 
ous. I'd like to think that by the time Stephanie reaches 
seventy-one, no one will have to face that fate. 

1 just became fifty years old, which is looked upon as advanced middle-age by our 
youth-glorifying Western society, but was considered to be at the peak of life (at least for 
men) by many ancient cultures that respected age and associated it with wisdom. There 
is good reason for this difference in attitude: when changes occurred at a slow pace the 
young could only profit from the experience of their elders, and tradition was venerat- 
ed; in a fast-changing, technology-dominated culture, old knowledge soon becomes ob- 
solete, and young minds can master fresh information quicker— and move on faster 
Personally, I tend to agree with the Ancients, and am quite impressed that I have 
managed to live half a century. Although the decline is fully in sight, I feel almost as 
youthful as when I was twenty-five. I can climb up steps with no more loss of breath- 1 
can make love as well (although less frequently, for being too busy and constantly ex- 
hausted); I can swim and dive considerably better. The few clear handicaps are fully 
compensated for by a wonderful maturity of thinking, a confidence in personal direc- 
tion in my work, and above all a tremendous increase in sensitivity— in being able to 
absorb and enjoy sensations with much greater depth and complexity in all areas from 
visual beauty, to music, to tasting wine or food. The forties has been a glorious decade 
for me, and the only one I would love to relive. 


Naturally, many changes have oc- 
curred gradually since my late thirties. 
Already, before reaching forty, more 
white hairs appeared (soon too many to 
pluck out), and in the past few years they 
have spread from around the ears to 
over the forehead and even to the top of 
my head. But while they are quite visible 
on the temples, they still have not af- 
fected at all the general brown tonality At 
age forty-two, I noticed the first white 
hair in my pubic area (and still the single 
one). At the end of my thirty-ninth year, I 
broke a large part of an upper molar and 
needed a golden half-crown (I have had 
one more since). But the really traumatic 

experience, two years later, was break- 
ing off a front upper tooth (by biting in- 
advertently into a dry prune pit). The 
helpless fragility of my teeth and the first 
"toothless" smile gave me a glimpse of 
what it will feel like to lose all my teeth 
and have to cope with dentures. 

A part of my body that has aged most 
noticeably is my hands. Already, when I 
was in my late thirties, they had started 
having a few brown spots that turned 
gradually darker. At age forty-two, a pain- 
ful little lump appeared on the second 
joint of my left middle finger, the first 
sign of arthritis, I thought. A year later it 
was gone, but in the following six or 

seven years most of my finger joints be- 
came swollen and painful, and I could 
hardly put on any of my rings. Similar 
pains appeared, on and off, in a hip joint, 
a knee or a shoulder, usually on the left 
side; an ache has become almost perma- 
nent in both of my bunions the last cou- 
ple of years, even though I wear 
comfortable huaraches most of the time. 
Strangely enough, my finger joints don't 
hurt anymore during the past year, the 
knuckle swelling has subsided, and X- 
rays show only traces of past cysts. So it 
seems that this was occupational (due to 
heavy work with a portable jigsaw) 
rather than permanent arthritis, and it 

may be likewise with my bunions (be- 
cause I stand too much in my work). Nev- 
ertheless, my fingers have gotten more 
shrivelled, the skin of my hands much 
drier looking, and their veins stick out a 
jot, almost permanently. 

Altogether, the skin of my body looks 
saggier and wrinklier, and the flesh flab- 
bier. This really started in the late thir- 
ties, with my knees and the skin over my 
bellybutton (the elbows, of course, had 
become crinkly much earlier). In the 
very early forties, my thighs got a little 
flaccid on their inner side, my lower 
arms skinnier, and my chest sparer. 
While my breasts still do not really hang 
(there is hardly a wrinkle under them, 
even at my thinnest), the bones of the 
sternum and adjoining ribs begin to stick 
: out a bit under the skin. Also, my entire 
flesh and skin respond to gravity consid- 
erably, which is most visible when I am 
doing yoga in upside-down positions. All 
this may be partly the result of having 
lost weight: since my mid-forties, I have 
tried to stick to 106-108 lbs., to keep the 
belly down, instead of my earlier 110- 
: 112 lbs. One has to look more dried-up if 
.One wants to avoid the matronly figure. 
However, on the whole, keeping trim 
i has further advantages. I feel more agile, 
more comfortable in my clothes, and I 
have much less cellulite and "culottes de 

cheval" on the hips. 

-.'■ ■■'** - 

1 seem to be aging by the day this 
year," I recorded in my journal when I 
J: was forty-two. That was perhaps exag- 
gerated then, but has certainly been true 
; the past couple of years. Special disaster 
areas are my neck, eyes, and lately the 
flower parts of my cheeks. Since the early 
..-■forties, my underchin has permanently 
acquired two thin wedges of loose shin 
/hanging from the chin to the top of the 
meek; and in the last few vears the front of 
my neck looks faded and saggy almost in 
.;.aH positions. Already in mv late thirties, 
; me delicate skin under mv eves at their 
inner corners had become more faded 
;^nd puckered, and the compound hori- 
zontal wrinkles have gradually gotten 
-much deeper (but I have no bags vet). In 

my early forties, the middle area of the 
eye-socket over the upper lid started get- 
ting more baggy, especially when I am 
tired. Most noticeable of all, the radiating 
wrinkles at the outer corners of my eyes 
("crow's feet") are now much more nu- 
merous, longer and deeper, especially 
when I smile or laugh; and, since the 
early forties, several thinner wrinkles 
have developed vertically across them, 
as well as diagonally downward from un- 
der the outer corners of the eyes — all 
much more intensely there when I wake 
up in the morning. 

Most disturbing to me, both because 
they worsened recently and I find them 
more disfiguring, are the changes that 
occurred around my mouth. The lips are 
still substantially unaltered (although 
usually dry from exhaustion), and I have 
no radiating little wrinkles around their 
perimeter yet; but two rather deep 
grooves have formed from nose to chin 
along the mouth (in a different way on 
each side!). These lines, quite visible 
since my forty-first year, are greatly due 
to pillow pressure during sleep, I am 
sure, because they are much more 
present every morning. Tiny vertical 
crinkles between nose and cheeks, also 
most visible when I wake up, prove that, 
too. Worse still, starting at the same age 
but intensifying over the last year, the 
flesh of the cheeks on either side of my 
chin has sagged, creating two distinctly 
baggy areas that spoil the formerly 
smooth oval shape of my face. I almost 
feel the weight of the flesh when I talk, as 
if my mouth has lost its earlier mobility 
and flexibility, and the effort it takes to 
move the lips, in order to articulate or 
eat, causes them to form unwanted 
grooves on the surrounding skin. In- 
deed, as far as I can see myself in the mir- 
ror during daily activities, I think that 
grimaces which used to look cute, such 
as pouting, now look unpleasant be- 
cause of skin coarsening; and even my 
smile has lost its sweetness due to the in- 
creased wrinkles under and around the 
eyes. When I laugh with genuine amuse- 
ment, however, my face seems to look as 
pleasant as before. 

All my described changes have been 
more or less gradual, yet I feel that I have 
aged in the last year or two more than in 
an entire decade: my forty-eighth and 
-ninth years have been the hardest of my 
life. Aside from heavier-than-ever work, 
which was rewarding but extremely de- 
manding, a number of personal catastro- 
phes occurred within about a year and a 
half. My mother became totally para- 
lyzed for months and finally died; my fa- 

ther-in-law died after a sad period of 
near decrepitude; my best friend (having 
survived cancer of the uterus and, at the 
age of 72, two operations for artificial 
hips) fell down twice, in the autumn and 
the following spring, and broke her right 
hand each time; my second best friend 
died after prolonged cancer; our country 
house almost got burned in a forest fire; 
and I damaged both of my wrists in a taxi 
accident and, after months of pain, had to 
have two consecutive operations. It is 
not that one's body gets older and 
weaker as one approaches fifty. More to 
the point, one's relatives and close 
friends start dying or getting incapaci- 
tated, and one faces for the first time seri- 
ously (because it feels nearer) real old 
age and death. In fact, much of the fear of 
aging is due to fear of future suffering, 
decrepitude, loss of one's normal capaci- 
ties and resulting uselessness and loneli- 
ness. One cannot know how much 
control of self one will have, and how 
much dependence on others, if there are , 
any others who will care enough, let 
alone the threat of economic insecurity 
that most people feel about their old age. 
I certainly am terrified of the possibility 
of becoming totally incapable of tending 
to my basic physical needs; I consider 
such existence below human dignity and 
unworthy of prolonging. Yet nobody 
seems to want to die at that stage. It looks 
as if when one becomes almost a vege- 
table, one's expectations from and per- 
ception of life change accordingly. 

Anyway, at the age of fifty, I feel in 
pretty good command of my capacities 
and, so far as I know, in decent physical 
condition, except for not being able to 
sleep well and having gotten somewhat 
far-sighted. For the moment, the latter is 
my only tangible handicap, having ap- 
peared at the age of forty-five. It has be- 
come more serious this past year (I 
cannot read with pleasure any longer, 
even typewritten pages, without glasses, 
except in bright sunlight), but it still is 
more of a nuisance than a problem. It is 
quite irritating to have to hunt for your 
glasses to look up a telephone number 

or a street name on the map, let alone to 
need them for reading the menu in sub- 
dued restaurant lighting. My sleeping 
problem may be due to the extraordinar- 
ily stressful conditions of my life in the 
last years. However, it may also be due to 
menopause. As I had my uterus (though 
not my ovaries) removed at age forty- 
four, I do not know when I entered 
menopause. I started having occasional 
periods of hot flashes at night (never se- 
vere) when I was forty-seven, the sum- 
mer a favorite uncle died unexpectedly 
from cancer — and they since have re- 
curred at times of strain. I have not per- 
ceived any other effects of menopause, 
unless poor sleeping is one (because it 
has often accompanied my anxiety when 
I wake up at night), and a slight depres- 
sion or general bad mood during the 
past year (which I had never expe- 
rienced before, but which could also be 
the result of the recent emotional 
strains). In any case, my sexual drive has 
not changed much, other than being 
affected, as always, by hard work 
and worre 

UXost of the problems of middle- 
age are, in fact, related to sexuality and 
the fear of loss of it. Men are afraid of los- 
ing their virility, which is not only a 
source of pleasure, but also of power 
and prestige. In past societies, when re- 
production of the species was a matter of 
survival and more sons were needed for 
more warriors (defenders of home, as 
well as conquerors of goods), a male 
needed to preserve as long as possible 
the ability to inseminate. For the same 
reason females were outcast after fifty', as 
worthless reproductive machines. 
Women do not fear the loss of sexual 
drive, since they do not need a crucial 
mechanical event (such as erection) for 
sex to occur; but they are afraid of losing 
their power of attraction, and, indirectly, 
the pleasure of sex and any control over 
males that they can have through it. In- 
deed, it is my belief that standards of fe- 
male beauty and attractiveness have 

been ingrained in humankind through 
.the naturally reproductive function of 
sex and the importance of female youth- 
fulness in it. The proof of this is that we 
do not use the same criteria for aging 
and beauty regarding men and women 
(even though women live longer): radi- 
ating wrinkles at the corners of the eyes 
in a man are "humor lines," in a woman, 
"tell-tale age marks." Grey temples in a 
man are often an addition to "mature at- 
tractiveness"; in a woman, they are usu- 
ally signs of "past the prime." In general, 
wrinkles or sagging cheeks are hardly 
noticed in men — helped by the coarse- 
ness of their skin due to the beard (bald- 
ness is their principal specter at 

X. am not trying to reverse stand- 
ards of beauty related to youthfulness in 
order to comfort myself. I am trying to 
examine the matter objectively, because 
I (and others) have often perceived 
beauty in middle-aged and even very old 
faces. A mature elephant or lion is the 
prime specimen of its species; a mature 
elk or bull is more imposing than its 
equivalent youngster; and old plane 
trees or olive trees, with their convo- 
luted branches and gnarled barks, are 
more satisfying formally to the human 
eye than immature trees of the same 
kind. So if I manage to remove the stigma 
of age, then perhaps I can look at the 
present changes on my face as structural 
alterations (the rearranging of features 
to an extent) which have produced a dif- 
ferent face. One can try to look at one's 
new face as if one were a stranger who 
had never met the earlier self. Then per- 
haps one would not perceive it as 
"ravaged by time." 

However, even if accepted standards 
of beauty and youthfulness or fear of fu- 
ture aging are set aside, the new face that 
looks at me from the mirror is still very 
unsettling. Not only because it keeps 
changing quite fast, but mainly because I 
am not really aware of the changes (they 
are barely felt through touch). If I did not 

have a mirror, I probably would not 
know my new physiognomy. I noticed 
recently that I was wrinkling my fore- 
head much more often than I had ob- 
served in the past, either raising the 
eyebrows (parallel horizontal wrinkles), 
thus appearing to question or wonder 
(which in fact I wasn't), or frowning 
when thinking or reading (vertical wrin- 
kles between the brows)— both giving 
me either a worried or forbidding ex- 
pression, way beyond my actual feelings. 
I also noticed my mouth "grimly" turn- 
ing downward at the ends when I work 
tensely, exaggerating the pouches on ei- 
ther side of it (although I cannot feel it). 
Are my muscles acting beyond my con- 
trol and without my knowledge of the 
face they present to the world? This is an 
upsetting idea that increases the insecu- 
rity one may feel anyway at this age. 

ULpon nearing fifty we have to con- 
front our familiar environment with a 
new facade — a traumatic experience that 
requires a period of adjustment. I liken 
middle-age, with its changes and anxie- 
ties, to adolescence, which is equally ac- 
companied by a chemical and physical 
evolution with psychological repercus- 
sions. The difference is that an adoles- 
cent can look forward to young 
adulthood (be it with naivete and impa- 
tience), whereas at middle-age you need 
much equanimity and maturity of spirit 
to face without despair the prospect of 
approaching old age and death. 

athena tacha is a sculptor and conceptual artist most 
active in environmental design for public spaces, she 
teaches at oberlin college in ohio. 

Cj/ he doctor calls it ulnar drift, the way 
K^S Your fingers now curve outward on both hands, 
The bones driven like snow. So this is winter, 
When fingers no longer work, not from cold 
But age. It is no use for me to thread 
The needle you cannot hold, or hope to see 
Cloth other than this blanket in your hands, 
Where veins rise like tree roots from eroded soil. 


ay after day you lie on your back in bed 
As if testing the feel of eternity. 
Two years not touching earth, your toes 
Have curled under like a bird's around a branch 
And won't let go of something invisible. 
And I have read how already the bones 
Of your legs, as still as in a grave, 
Must be turning to dust from disuse. 

I /I y bones make the same blood as yours; and in 
V-Js Their hollows the same echoes tell me how 

That lowering day's at hand when I must 

See six feet between us, if I can stand it. 

Suzanne noguere is a poet who lives in new york city, 
her children's books, little koala and little raccoon, 
were published by holt, rinehart and Winston. 

mira falardeau has been published since 1974. she is 
president of a group of cartoonists in quebec called the 


It was not until the seventieth room that I 
began to feel a bit tired of moving and 
aware of needing my own home. Until 
then, it was a pattern I had always known 
and never questioned. 

By the time I was fifteen, Mother and I 
had lived in eighteen different houses. 
The ritual was established, the chaos 

®JB^hat was unavoidable from family 
circumstances in my youth, after the 
twenty-second or twenty-third move, be- 
came a gypsy pattern that I came to ex- 
pect, anticipate and frequently 

Unwittingly, I became an anthropologist 
of living conditions and the mechanics of 
moving in America by taxicab, U-Haul or 
Greyhound bus. 

Though friends in their suburban torpor 
often teased me, I assumed that my habit 
of uprooting myself simply came from 
an adventurous spirit, inspired by my 
history, which inspired the frequent de- 
sire for a greater reality. 

Recent maneuvers, however, have not 
been executed with my customary ease. 
The cavalier logic I have so often relied 
on is no longer serving me. I have begun 
to tease myself. 

Do I suffer from a fear of landing or the 
lack of knowing how? To blame restless- 
ness or simply instability would not suf- 
fice to explain why I moved to Okinawa 
in the sixties or why nine trips across 
America were so inspired and urgent 
each time. 

The first rooms I knew with any regular- 
ity were in my grandparents' house in 
Spokane, where I often spent summers 
from age three to ten. But Grandma's 
death put an end to bus trips from Cali- 
fornia, an end to those cherished times. 

It was a plain one-story wooden house, 
set back from the street, with a wood 
stove in the kitchen, an icebox on the 
open back porch, a dirt cellar where 
canned fruit and potatoes were stored 
and a shallow attic. 

I slept with Grandma in her bed when- 
ever Grandpa was traveling for the co- 
op, or in my uncle's room after he joined 
the army. There were flower boxes i n the 
dining room windows and giant sun- 
flowers out back along the woodshed. 

On warm summer evenings, Grandma 
and I lay on a quilt in the back yard under 
a cherry tree as tall as the house, looked 
at the stars and felt the day cooling 

•he told me all about the beautiful old 
red-haired widow who lived next door 
and kept too many cats, or we listened^ 
to the big family in the corner house 

Sometimes their yelling woke us in the 
night and we got up and went into the 
bathroom to stand in the bathtub so we 
could hear better. 

carel moiseiwitsch is a graphic artist who lives in 
va ncouver with her three children . 

dancer, poet joan nichohon manages visual arid per- 
forming arts programs for the asian american arts 

• ;j just moved into my seventy-fourth, or is 

it seventy-fifth, room and think it might 

be prudent, perhaps instructive, even 

^entertaining, to trace the real entrances 

and exits, motivations, men, women, 

Hobs, longings and imaginings that have 

^carried me, propelled me, this way then 

fthe other, keeping me still only briefly 

f«Coveting gardens and libraries, and 
Iharmythic home, perhaps I can change 
fmvunsettled ways. I will go back now to 
ithe many rooms to gain knowledge and 
compassion for all the rooms in me. 

center in new york's chinatoivn, and works with 
homeless children in dance and theatre. 

a ore rooms on a sugarbeet farm in 
Oregon. Favorite rooms in a cardboard 
warehouse in New York City Rooms over 
a TV repair store in Okinawa. Rooms in a 
turquoise-green stucco house next to my 
stepfather's turquoise-green drive-in 
movie theater. 

Rooms with all my things in baskets and 
perfect rooms in my own heart's dream: 
barnsize, more baskets, paintings, sculp- 
ture, children, cats, tranquility, love, 

There have been too many rooms. Too 
many other people's rooms. Too many 
rooms I've tried to fit. Not enough rooms 
for me. Rooms just for me are yet to 

IFrom room to room, I have lost too 
many treasures. My grandmother's cara- 
mel-colored celluloid cameo, a hand- 
made feather comforter in a faded rose 
color I never liked, that Mother sent to 
me in Wisconsin from the Starlite Drive - 
In-Movie Swap Meet in Elmonte. 

I misplaced my dear cats Max and Lulu 
between New York and California. A vin- 
tage Mustang was stolen in one of Man- 
hattan's Puerto Rican ghettos. Even parts 
of my soul have slipped out of my pocket 
when I wasn't looking. 


There have been rooms and rooms and 
rooms and rooms and rooms. There 
have been rooms in Walla Walla, Milton- 
Freewater, Spokane, Corvallis, Pomeroy, 
La Crosse, and Steamboat Springs. 

Rooms in Chelsea, Soho, Tribeca, 
Greenwich Village and Brooklyn 

■"ooms on the Upper West Side, the Up- 
" per East Side, the Lower East Side, and 
_ the East Village. 

Rooms in Pasadena, Riverside, West Hol- 
lywood, El Monte, Brentwood, 
.Westwood, Venice, San Diego, Fire 
. Island, Washington D.C., and Camp Rob- 
'.inson Crusoe. 

There have been rooms shared with my 
; mother, rooms alone, rooms with cats, 
with husbands and almost husbands, 
with lovers and friends. 

•Rooms big enough for just a bed and a 
stack of books. Other rooms big enough 

■for a bed, a hot plate, a borrowed desk 
and ;t chair. 

' Rooms with a handmade bed and a 
camel stool. Rooms with fireplaces, de- 

• Signer kitchens, a collection of grand- 
father clocks and a large poodle dog 

-named Darboux, after the French 

; .mathematician. 

Rooms with all my things in milk crates. 
V" e ro - om with all my things in proper 
J^srs and antique armoires. 
Kooms in the former summer house of 

tl ^r ladian settIers on a n island in 
<ssissip P i River 









6 ~ K 

I 1*. 

"a- CI 
3 S 


R m 


You can o 

I hug you close. Take care of your ri b s ' 

Keep your arms in their hollows. Don't talk 

The milk that is spilled 

in the well of your neck 

I will write white words with it 

if you'll be still. 

Unfold the layers of your skin 

that let out a limb. Make a pact with 

brittle or pliant. Under the blanket 

ends of the ribs north of the saddle bone 

up on the blanket sponge of your veins 

chips of your fingers float like a shell 

sea's tissue to sea's stone. 

End formally. 

Hold up your head in its hawkcords 

Hood with your eyes the dark you see 

ahead of me. Scratch your nose a little. 

Tuck in your mouth over the drowsy gullet' 

Suck in the places your skin falls to dream 

under the jutting bone. 

There is great beauty. 



^/cink milk. 

Color comes to the lips. 

You thrum when I hug you and squeeze you 

as if you were my newborn daughter. 

Brush with your hand 

the back of my hand 

with faint desire 

: Don't eat. Turn your head to the wall. 
; Nothing has flavor: cold paste on a sharp 

edged spoon. Not for you. No. You've decided. 

Serenely you smile in control of your life. 

You're safe deep inside. Curl up in your cot 

strapped to its sides. Nothing can happen. 

You are washed changed pulled from slumber 

for riddles you have no time for. 

Close down your eyes. Soon I'll begone. 

Clamp shut your ears and jaw. Find your way 

to the smallest light 

Enter so softly 

it's not an event 

I won't even know 



l V'.f 

. .'9j£»v&; 


i-: .■■'-•lit fe^WyS&i&^^fclfegg: 


as an artist who helped to found heresies in 
1 976-77, may Stevens is looking forward to 
contributing to the issue that will come out 
January 1, 2000. 



Lucy R. 



The interviews below were conducted in 
a middle-class senior center and on the 
streets in Boulder, Colorado, in a black 
bousing project in Houston, Texas, and 
in private homes in New York City, Boul- 
der, and Hamden, Connecticut. The 
goal was to look at the aging process 
from the beginning, and to explore in- 
ter generational notions about youth 
and age. The interviewees ranged from 8 
to 80. Each woman was asked the same 
series of questions concerning the 
changes that take place with getting 
older: her focus on different issues, ex- 
pectations for the future, happy and un- 
happy recollections of the past, the 
number of friends of different ages, and 
whether or not this society is a good place 
in which to grow old. We found that all 
ages bring with them elements of hope 
and despair, and that flashes of wisdom 
may come at any age. 

Marjorie Johns: I won't tell you 
my age. I'm angry at society for putting 
me in a category for the number of years 
I've lived. When I went to work at fiftyish, 
I found I was better educated than most 
of the younger women I had to compete 
with, since I had been out there living a 
full life while they were locked in offices. 
Nevertheless, it was the younger women 
who got the promotions and I got people 
telling me a hundred dozen times.- 
"You're overqualified." But if I have to 
make a living, it's my decision whether 
I'm overqualified for a job. If you want to 
make it, you'd better get your promo- 
tions, get your advances, before you hit 

I also many times had people tell me, 
"I know you have the experience and the 
background to be very valuable, but we 
can't have you in there with younger 
girls. That wouldn't work out. They don't 
want an older woman interfering. They 
don't want Mother in the department." In 

fact, I'll tell you how far this goes. I have 
been working once a week at the Boul- 
der Day Care Center. I was very skittery 
about what my position would be in the 
nursery, but what they really wanted was 
a granny, and I was happy to hold the kids 
and love 'em and cuddle 'em. I was sit- 
ting in the corner one morning reading 
to a little girl who was quite disturbed. 
Another little girl came over who was 
five years old and told me to get out of 
that corner; she wanted to play there. I 
said, "Well, I'm reading to Amy and we're 
going to sit here awhile." She gave me a 
bad time about it. I told her again, "We're 
staying here." And she said, "You know, I 
don't have to mind old ladies." It really 
shook me up. A five-year-old kid in this 
society knows that old ladies are not lis- 
tened to. 

Here in the senior center where I've 
been a resident for two years, you find a 
lot of inflexibility and negativism which I 
really think comes from fear — fear of 
what's going to happen to us today as so- 
ciety treats us. Every time someone new 
moves in, you can hear the vibrations all 
through the building: "How's this person 
going to change our lives? We can't stand 
change. We like it the way it is." A friend 
who's a psychologist working with sen- 
iors says she is appalled at the amount of 
meanness that is inflicted on each other 
by old people. This meanness is fear, and 
that brings out cruelty. 

I was very popular in my forties, when 
I became single. The men who thought I 
was a young chick had made their money 
and established themselves in their pro- 
fessions and had no responsibilities, so 
they could take me lots of fun places and 
do nice things for me. But an older 
woman who's been out there longer 
than I had warned me that at fifty this is 
going to change. I thought, oh, sour 
grapes. But it did. It's just like there was 
an invisible sign hung on me at fifty. The 
telephone didn't ring. I didn't get as 

many opportunities to do things, and I 
used to look at myself in the mirror and 
ask, how did I change on my birthday? I 
didn't see any difference, but men must 
have a special built-in detector and they 
don't want women over 50. 

I don't like being old. There's no good 
thing in being old except the bus fare's 

Francine Barrington (40): I don't 
really feel as old as I am because of a sim- 
ple reason. You see, I smile. When \ou 
hold your head up and smile, the whole 
world smiles with you. Try it some time. 
Most people will say there's something! 
wrong with that person 'cause they smile 
all the time, but you watch. I'm not as 
good as I once was, I'm better. Wisdom. 
That's the main trick to growing old with 
grace. When I talk to older ladies, I listen 
to them. I come home and I think about 
what they're saying. Issues I cared more 
about ten years ago? Dusting, I hate 

But sometimes when I stoop down 
and my bones get to cracking, I feel old. 
My advice to any young person: Enjoy it, 
baby, 'cause life is so precious. In just 
about a twinkle of His eye, He can come 
and get you. 

Marsha Freeman (32): I don't feel 
as old as I am. I think it's the fact of having 
teenage kids. They keep you feeling 
young if you're around them a lot. The 
eight-year-olds, they're so full of that 
overbearing energy they have, so much 
get-up-and-go they can't be still. Talking 
to my grandmother is restful, peace-of- 
mind-like. I do talk to older people dif- 
ferently, I guess to make them feel more 
comfortable about being in my com- 
pany. Because if I act like I feel, maybe it's 
not going to be mature enough. If I 
change in five years, I think it'd be to- 
wards independence, 'cause I've been 
married ever since 15 years of age. At 37, 


Vih'ink I'll be more career-minded, make 
. ijfe the way I want it to be, before it's 
n '\ |. lte when vour daughter says "I 
'L't'want to be like my Mama," you 
know you're doing something wrong. 
That didn't mean nothing to me once 

'toon a time. But since I got older, it does. 
Once upon a time I couldn't deal with 
people unless they were just like me. I 
can get along with anybody now. Like 
we're talking now? Once upon a time I 
couldn't do that. 

It's my kids that make these my happi- 
est years so far. My kids give me a lot of 
momentum. And I try to let them go on 
and be whatever they want to be in life. 

lygiu see, I was a quitter. I preach to them, 
"Don't give up. Tell Mama and Daddy if 
you see us doing wrong. You're never 
too old to make mistakes." There's a lot 
of young girls around here and they see a 
lot of women doing a whole lot of things. 
We try to set a proper example. Caring 
about what we do in others' eyesight 

:?would make things a whole lot better. 
This is not a good society to grow old in. 
1 wouldn't want to grow old out here, in 
this neighborhood. The dope-smoking 
and all that. I'm not into it and they're 
kinda into that kinda thing here. If we 
had more people here that would think 

-of the kids that's growing up around 
here, it would be a better place. People 

Jaround here don't respect women. 

Louise Bradley (54): What bothers 
you is you begin not to have as good a 
memory. It's all there, but it's the re- 
trieval system that isn't there. Some- 
where along the way you get liberated 
from having to prove yourself. Personal 
competition means less and less some- 
where around the 50 border. You can't 
sget:quite as upset or intense about 
!?f}' n 8 s - Community becomes more im- 
portant. I'm a weaver and there's a circle 
of weavers that meets once a month. 
We're all ages. We buy yarn together and 
j$° -forth, but the real purpose is a sup- 
port group. In ways, it's a lot more com- 
fortable. My daughter's 26. She's my best 
friend. There was a time when I really 
didn't want to reach this age, but now it's 
|Okay Right now is always the best age. 

Alice Eager (73): Your outlook 
changes when your husband's gone and 
you don't have that to do, that closeness 
w «n him. Young means no cares and no 
Problems. With old age, you get the cares 
and the problems. I hate getting older, 
out here I am, trying to ignore it." 

Margaret Lippard (80): I feel my 
age physically, but mentally, no. Being 
deaf, and with the bad leg, all the slowing 
up; everything takes so much longer. 

lyn randolph is a texas painter. 

Youth means heaven, being physically 
able to dp what you want. Youth means 
spirited, physically more attractive, "with 
it.' Age? Well, it s not the golden years. I 
can tell you. There are so main J'riiMni- 
tit»K. I wasn't S" liappv in high school, 
but since then I've enjoyed life tremen- 
dously. Maybe I was happiest the first few 
years we were married, and then all that 
|travelirig^fe;did :t(jgethef. I didn't miss? 
having a career. In this day and age I 
might have gone for one. but I don't 
know what I'd be like if I were younger. I 
often think about that, bur the way I was 


without a real career. If I hadn't had 
X'erin.m I'd haw been unluippv. and sin. v 
he died it hasn't been the same at all. I 
miss most the companionship. There's 

JiidbodySp: read thelj^er with,:- Qrvhash^ 

over parties with And the loss of social 
life. Widows don't get asked out half as 

home is very hard. It's like losing your 
past before you should have to. 

I'm more interested in political issues 
now than when I was young. I'm inter- . 
ested in all sorts of movements, but I'm 
iiwi .active in i hem The turning point was 

vmeadingsthe autobiogr^phyvpfytincolh): 

gmiddleage,! was moStlphterested:inl(3 : ; ! 

S^eai issues-Thrace : arid hbusingj theieague 

|ibf : W^men^ 
was really the point I got omnr^il Be- 
fore that I was just interested. One thing I 
hope won't happen to me is to stop get- 
ting interested in v, hats going on I miss 
contact with really young people. I must 
say that 10 years ago when I was 70, I 

never imagined what life would be like 
now, never. In some ways this is a good 
society to age in, compared with the past. 
You don't have to live with your children 
and be a burden to them, which is great. 
Medicare has helped a lot of people, 
though there should be a national health 
system for everybody, not just the old. 

Marie Lyons (32): You know, when 
I was in the Caribbean, they would ask 
me my age and I would kind of hide it, 
because I was small for my age. But now I 
can show it off and boast of it because I 
don't look like 32. People say I look 21. 
But when the birthdays come and you 
see you're getting a little bit older, you 
make your plans. They say 35 is the best 
age. Then you're getting up in age. 
You're a little frightened too, eh? 'Old' 
means like a grandmother. 'Young' 
means the teens, 'cause that's when you 
have all those nice times and sometimes 
you really feel like going back to live it 
again, 'cause it's so pretty. But you can't 
bring those things back. 

When I get old, I'm planning to go 
back home and settle there. In the Carib- 
bean, it's a place you can relax. That's a 
good society to grow old in. They don't 
let you stay alone. We don't even have 
nursing homes. They let their parents 
stay home with them and they care for 
their parents. Older women are treated 
with great respect. They can tell you sto- 
ries, history, have some good interesting 
facts to tell you. My grandmother can re- 
member volcanic dust falling into the 
sand, and that's how she can tell how old 
she is. In my eighties, I'll go home and 
stay there. Here, older women try to look 
a little younger — makeup, exercise. At 
home old women tend to stay old. It's so 
different from here. When I get old I'll 
just go with the time. I'm not scared of 
getting old except I want to die a peace- 
ful death. You see these things on TV, you 
wonder which one you're going to get. I 
want to live long. 

Katherine Campbell (38): Age is 
irrelevant. It's more what happens to you 
in your own life. When you get into your 
later thirties, you look more into the fu- 
ture and plan where you want to be 15 
years from now. You realize how pre- 
cious life is as it gets shorter and shorter. 
Working with older people as a commu- 
nity-resource coordinator has made me 
realize that the best preventive medicine 
is to keep yourself from being fixed, in- 
flexible, when you're younger. 

I have lots of intergenerational con- 
tacts in my work but not in my personal 


life. My children are 14 and 12, and I talk 
to their friends really easily, the same 
way I talk to my own friends, casually, 
though not as in depth. I'm perhaps 
more polite with women over 70. Some- 
times it's really hard not to be patroniz- 
ing if they're hard of hearing. You just 
have to watch the inflections. Youth is 
looking at a vastness, 60 or 80 years 
ahead. Older people are looking behind 
and thinking there's this much time left, 
this is what my life has been. Where they 
kind of meet is in living day by day, week 
by week. Middle-aged people live year 
by year, not day by day. 

The economic situation looks bad. We 
could even have a real depression like 
the 1930s. It seems like there's going to 
be a re-evaluation of our lives and what 
we can provide for our children. I don't 
look at a real rosy future but I think it will 
be a real political time. Ten years ago, 
there were a lot fewer advocacy groups 
for older people, Gray Panthers, senior 
groups, and now they're much more ac- 
tive politically. The middle-aged groups 
will continue to be active and they'll be 
stronger as they see what's going on and 
demand that things will be there for 
them when they get old. The youth is 
also getting much more aware of the 
whole cycle of things. My son's in ele- 
mentary school and he's getting fairly po- 
litically aware too. 

They say that by the year 2000, a third 
of our population will be over 65. That's 
huge. There are people considered sen- 
iors still caring for their parents. The 85- 
plus age group is the fastest growing age 
group. And we're going to have to sup- 
port them with social security. Then it's 
supposed to be there for you and me? I 
know an 80-year-old woman trying to 
care for her 60-year-old daughter who 
had a stroke. She's back to being a 
mother again, but she doesn't have the 
physical or emotional strength to cope 
with it now. So we'll have four genera- 
tions of political awareness and it's going 
to be very powerful. Who knows what's 
going to happen! There's going to be a 
lot of changes and a lot of upheaval for 
me and for this whole country. 

Giles Leetha Jones (70): Issues? 
The economy. You don't know whether 
you're going or coming. It is a really criti- 
cal time, with the starvation of the many 
people that's incrowding in Houston 
here. They are not legal. They're immi- 
grants and they just taking over. We in the 
low class, if we don't be very careful we 
won't have nowhere to go either. But 
there's nothing I can do, so I might just as 


well leave it alone. Right here is not a 
good place to grow old in. Oh no. I'd like 
it to improve a lot. I been here 41 years. I 
love beautiful yards and not stuff just 
throwed everywhere. But when you're 
confined to a certain amount of money, 
that's it. You have to stay put. We got two 
bad problems we can't solve. I'm think- 
ing of drugs and AIDS. It's not getting no 
better; it's getting worse. Now my hands 
are just like tied. They know what's hap- 
pening, but they could care less. Every- 
body's reaching for a whole lot of money. 
I earned my little thing. 

You can't sit down on age, because you 
be gone quickly then. I ain't never been 
sick but once in my life, and I worked for 
35 years. My best friend is . . . How old are 
you, Joyce? 39. I ain't too much on a 
whole lot of friends. I'm just a by-myself 
person. Talking to people, say, 30 years 
old, we talk young talk. We talk about 
what's now, not what happened. I don't 
have to do too much with older friends. I 
don't need them. I'm old. I'm in with the 
80s over there, but I like to stay with the 
30s and 40s over here. Some people try 
to play like they younger. They ain't. 
They wait for a little bitty while and they 
right back in the shoe. 

Michelle (17): I want to get out now 
while I'm my age and work my way on up 
so when I'm 50 or 60, 1 can just sit back 
and relax and teach younger kids how to 
capture their dreams. If they older than 
me, I figure they have more experience 
than me if I need advice. So if someone 
comes who's younger than me, I can pass 
that advice on. This is not a good society 
to grow old in because our community is 
pitiful. It's poor. Like the schools around 
here. They not on the right level for the 
students. They bring our community and 
our students down. I'm the kind of per- 
son that can help my community and I'll 
give all I can. I write letters to whoever 
be in office. But I don't plan to be here 
after college. In ten years, my life will be 
better, a lot better. People around here 
don't respect young ladies. If they started 
leaning on they parents more, instead of 
outsiders, things would be better. Young 

ladies get off on the wrong foot. The\ 
scared of talking open with their paients 
and telling them how they really feel. 
That's when men start misusing them. A 
man can help himself, but young ladies 
shouldn't be out in the streets runnings 
around like that. That's when they 
their bad reputations. 

Tomika (8): How does 8 feel? Happy 
Who 's the oldest person you know'! 
Mama. She's 26. What are you going to be 
when you get older? Working. 

Joyce Fuller (39): I feel 16. It would 
be good to be old, because you can see 
life at the end, how everything done 
changed. What I like here is the people, 
the women. What I dislike is the preju- 
dice, the racism and all that. 

Azzie Lee Turk (56): Around 40, 1 
didn't feel tired, I just felt like I wanted to 
slow down. When I was young, going out 
was the big deal, and havin' fun and 
drinkin' and stuff. Now I like to go to 
church and I like to be quiet. I married at 
15 and it didn't work. I'd like to have a 
husband, but you can't get those, not a 
good one. I have an aunt up in Jackson- 
ville made 99 last weekend and she get 
around better'n I do. Talks about sex. 

Lilly Mae Gonzales (54): Young 
folks complain all the time. I never have 
no complaints or nothin'. I work five, six 
days a week, come home, dig in my yard- 
Old age means when you get tired, you 

give up. I have an auntie in Dallas in a 
rest home who's 111 years old and her 
mind's real keen. I don't call that old. She 
just can't walk because she fell and broke 
her hip. I think this is a fine place to grow 
old. That's why I'm here. Makes me feel 

• good. I'm not afraid of growing old or 
•living by myself. I just wish things would 

.be like when I was coming up. I know it 
can't be like that. It be so much better 

■ than all that stealing and killing and all 
that garbage. 

Alzata Monroe (67): I don't feel 
old but sometimes I don't have the 
; energy to get up and go. My mother-in- 
law was 107. We buried her about 3 
•weeks ago. Her skin was just so pretty. No 
wrinkles. She was the color of an Indian. 
I've been in this neighborhood 36 years. 
Its home, but it's not as good as it used 
to be. 

Heidi (19): School, sex, drugs, rock and 
roll, alcohol— those are things I care 
about now that I didn't care about ten 
■ V' 1 ' s a 8°- My great grandmother's in her 
.;- ei 8hties. She makes me really sad when I 
see her. But you can be old when you're 
not. Some people just don't like life. Old 

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age starts about 70 or 60. Young means 
adventurous. I don't want to live and be 
like my great grandma. I don't want to 
suffer. I really don't. 

Connie, Heidi's mother (36): Today I 
think more about what I really want my 
life to be than I did ten years ago, instead 
of just accepting, going with the flow. . . . 
Little kids are just running around with 
nothing to do. Really old people are . . . 
just running around with nothing to do! 
A lot of things are similar. 

Julie (40) and Sara (16) Phillips, 
mother and daughter. 
Julie: There's a lot of job discrimina- 
tion already at 40 for women, and it only 
gets worse. I have friends who are 50 
who are just devastated when they try to 
switch careers and do stuff, and these are 
people who are in marvelous condition. 
One can trek across Nepal but she can't 
get a job because she's 52. The single 
least respected role in our culture has 
got to be the role of an older woman. If 
there's change afoot, I sure don't see it 
yet. I'll believe it when we quit calling 
people senior citizens or start calling the 
rest of us junior citizens. I'm not looking 

forward to getting older, but the alterna- 
tive is worse. I had a salivary gland tumor 
five years ago, and as I've processed that, 
I don't really believe very much in goals 
anymore, as much as just kind of living in 
the moment and getting a lot out of it. I 
spent all my younger years planning for 
the future and then almost didn't have 
one, so I really re-evaluated that. 
Sara: Sixteen 's a neat age in some ways. 
Sometimes I feel a lot older and some- 
times a lot younger. Sometimes I don't 
feel like I'm any age exactly. My grand- 
mother's 72 and she's a close friend, but 
sometimes I act, like, totally fake with 
her. That's when she's acting old, and 
talking about her hearing all the time. 
And then once in a while I see her as a 
person and I get all fascinated because 
she's like, you know, really interesting. 
With a friend in her fifties I'm almost 
playful. And with another older friend I'll 
be totally serious and intent. ... I look 
forward to getting older because I hope 
that I'll get more confident and get more 
and more dynamic and have more and 
more fun. But I also know that when you 
get older than that — maybe after 40, the 
sureness begins to decrease. 


Julie: I couldn't have imagined being 
middle-aged when I was your age. Get- 
ting old would have been 30. That would 
have been as far in my wildest dreams I 
could have imagined. That's why it was 
such a shock to get to be 35. 
Sara: There's this thing about men get- 
ting to be so distinguished when they're 
older. Well, I think older women are 
classy. You have more perspective, more 
of a sense of humor about things, or 
some people do. It's more and more 
gentle and carefree if you're in touch 
with getting older. I'm looking forward 
to the day when Connie Chung turns 50, 
because that's a classy breed of 
women — newscasters. I hope I don't 
worry about how I look when I get older. 
That's really silly. I think gray hair's beau- 
tiful. It's not like you can compare a 60- 
year-old woman with a 20-year-old 
woman. They can both be beautiful. It 
was interesting for me to watch you turn 
40. 1 mean, you look better now than you 
did at any time between 35 and 39. I'm 
totally serious. It's not all just cosmetic. 
... I don't know if I'll be married or living 
with people. I'm the child of liberated 
parents. For a while I wanted to be a fa- 
mous actress, I'd live all by myself and if I 
was in love, well, maybe the guy would 
come and live with me. But recently I've 
felt kind of lonely, and you could prob- 
ably get married without giving up. 

Nancy Doub (49): How old I feel is 
affected by how much weight I have, and 
right now I feel very old and blobby, for 
the time being. My mother didn't do any 
exercise at all after 25 and I remember 
how old she seemed. I see old age as 
dwindling capacities, losing your 
friends, having to face death. It starts 
around 70. I do have young friends. If I 
know them first as our children's friends, 
I think of them as quite young. If I meet 
them on my own, I think of them as con- 
temporaries. This society probably isn't 
as good to grow old in as some, where 
there's an extended family and a happy, 
comfortable place to be with the family. 
It seems very lonely here for a lot of old 
people, though at this point in time, I'm 
personally enjoying not having an ex- 
tended family around. 

I was surprised. The older my mother 
got the more she was a friend of mine. I 
have a lot of respect for the wisdom of 
age, except that times are changing so 
fast. My uncle just wrote a big treatise on 
peace and I'm impressed with it but it's 
definitely dated; it's definitely a thinking 
from another generation. Maybe I'll send 
him some of the stuff my son is reading 


esther gilman is a new york painter who also works in 
book illustration, set design and harpsichord 



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and thinking about. 

One of my most joyful things in life is 
moving and running. I love that feeling 
of fluidity and power. I love to play bas- 
ketball. I took up hunter riding at 37, 
jumping horses. But I had an injury last 
year — not because I was old. Now all I 
have to do is lose some weight and I'll 
feel very happy about myself. I never 
thought I wouldn't get old. I always 
wanted to see what's going on. In fact, I 
announced when I was three that I 
wasn't going to be one of those people 
who died. That was not for me. I had 
other plans. And I think I still have that 
feeling, that I might possibly be an ex- 
ception! I've read quite a bit about life- 
after-death experiences, people who 
were officially dead, and it seemed like 
quite a nice adventure. However . . . I'd 
be willing to postpone that as long as I 
can, even though I do have a great curi- 
osity about spiritual-type things. I 
wouldn't stake my money or my life on it! 

Jennifer Albert (21): Twenty-one, 
but I feel older, because most people my 
age don't have to do everything I have to 
do. I work 32 hours, from 7 or 8 a.m. to 5 
p.m. four days a week as a marketing di- 
rector, then I go to school four nights a 
week and I waitress three nights a week. 
Some people don't think yet at 21. They 
haven't woken up yet. Having to try so 
hard makes me feel older, way ahead of 
myself. I think I'm 35 sometimes. Physi- 
cally I feel young, but I have bad habits — 
25 cups of coffee a day, smoking — so my 
body may feel bad. I'm just beginning to 
wake up now to things around me. You 
always knew there was poverty out 
there, and starvation, and racism and 
prejudice out there, but until it hits you, 
you don't think about it. The main thing 
I've woken up to from my own experi- 
ence is how people are prejudiced 
against me because I'm a woman. I'm just 
beginning to realize that what they say 
we have and what we really have are two 
different things. When that happens, it 
makes me look around and see other 
.people who are put down because of 
what they are. 

I think less about certain stupid things 
than I did in my teens, like popularity, 
physicalness, clothes. The social things 
start to mean less and less, what people 
think of me. My grandmother's 88 now. 
Just a few years ago, when she was still all 
with it, old age meant happy things to 
me. It meant knowing things nobody 
else knows because you've been 
through everything, a whole lot of infor- 
mation rolled into one. Your face 


changes, but I never thought wrinkles 
were bad. If you looked one way your 
whole life, it wouldn't be any fun. Now, 
when my grandmother's mind is getting 
tired, old age looks a little scary to me. 
Getting old can be like going back to two 
again, just regressing all of a sudden, and 
there's nothing you can do about it. 

I have a lot of intergenerational con- 
tacts. I waitress with women from, 
mostly, 30 to 35, and they're actresses. At 
the offices, the secretaries are about 35 
to 45 but they're a whole different kind 
of person. It's probably the hardest part 
of a woman's life. There's nothing wrong 
with being a secretary, but when they're 
typing for someone 21 with her own of- 
fice . . . They maybe didn't do quite what 
they wanted. The actress/waitresses may 
be doing what they want to do but just 
not making it. That's scary too. 

A lot of people in my classes are 
women over 65 because we have a huge 
program at Marymount called "lifelong 
learning." I like it a lot, going to school 
with older people. At first I didn't, be- 
cause they're so excited to be there they 
can be pains in the neck. They say, like, 
"What? No class today? Well, when are 
we going to make it up? What's the home- 
work?" They want to learn so badly; they 
want to go home and have something to 
do. And I'm, like, oh my gosh, don't they 
know you're supposed to do the least 
possible to get through in this world? So 
I get a lot of energy from them. At school 
they're the most exciting people to be 
around because they know so much. 
They'll say, "In 1929 when the stock mar- 
ket first crashed, it happened like 

I don't spend as much time with little 
kids as I'd like to. I always wanted to be a 
teacher and then I decided that was al- 
most demeaning in our society, espe- 
cially with younger children. But at work 


I make sure I take all the projects at the 
elementary level, so I get to talk to a lot of 
younger kids about what they want to do 
with their lives, to keep kids in school, 
leach them at an early age where they'll 
be if lhc\ don't stay in .school. Wha'i 1 
want lo do .souk- day is k\u.h law to 
young children. 

There's nothing 1 miss from adoles- 
cence I was a misfit. High school was a 
waste of my time. Hut maybe it helped 
me grow up much faster 1 was happiest 
from birth to four. You know who your 
mommy and daddy are, but you don't 
know who 1 1 ley are yet, and that's good. I 
always .-a\ 1 wish I was five again no. 
four, because you don't have to go to kin- 
dergarten when you're four. You just 
woke up in the morning and everything 
was happy. Every day seemed so long. 
Going io bed was horrible. Now I dream 
all day of getting to crawl into my bed 
and the days seem so short they just 
fly by 

1 think my happiest years are yet to 
come. I've got everything planned out 
and 1 get very frustrated if things don't 
happen mi time. 1 leave nothing to 
chance. As s< ion as I can pay back mv stu- 
dent loans, I want to go b > Columbia Law 
School. Marriage and kids? I go back and 
f- nth on that. One day I can't wait to find 
somebody who'll be my best friend and 
satisfy me for the rest of my life. Other 
days, I think there's nobody out there 
who thinks like 1 do. My mother always 
told me, "Marry a doctor, many a lawyer, 
have a good life." In other words, don't 
think for the rest of your life. What else 
are women here (or. anyway? Another 
piece of me totally throws it out the win- 
dow. Okay. I'll get married when I'm 5S 
and I've done everything I wanted to do. 
Maybe I'll want to share some of my 
"riches," But I wani to do everything 1 do 
as me, a.s Jennifer Albeit— ALB L R-T— 
because that's what I've been spelling on 
my papers my whole life. 

People always say old age is a state of 
mind. 1 don't think so. People just like to 
ihink i it it that way lis an age. ii starts at 

65. Old people in this society are just 
pushed aside. We give them discount 
coffee at McDonald's, discount movies 
like that's all they're worth. I would love 
to live in a society where being old 
meant you knew more, you were up 
there, high on the totem pole. Instead, 
we put our old people in little hospitals 
and visit them now and then. They 
should be able to go on living like they 
always lived. If something's wrong, of 
course they should be helped, bui a lot 
of times we help them without them 
wanting to be helped. I'd leave them 
alone. Like with the homeless. In Amer- 
ica we just like to sweep all the people 
we don't think we need under the table. 
I think I'm going to like being older. 
I'll know more. I just can't wait to know 
so much that when anyone walks up to 
me I can have an intelligent conversation 
with anybody in the world, know a little 
about everything. I hope people will take 
me more seriously when I'm older. It's 
hard to be trying to do all these things 
and people keep telling me, "You're 
young; you'll understand later." Maybe 
I'm wrong to think I know now, but I 
don't want to hear that anymore. I want 
to get to the point where I've done all the 
things I want to do so I can relax a little 
and enjoy it. At 55, I'll be able to sit back 
and think, "Thank God, when I go to that 
high school reunion, I'll have things 
to say." 

lucy r. lippard is a writer and activist living in : 
york and boulder, Colorado. 

mary mizenko is a 25-year-old artist living in sail 






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I see your face 
on die pages 
I write 

Your whisper 
fills my poetry 
we sing 

while I drink my tea 
It's all so real 
Like the last 30 years 
did not exist 
Till I stand up 
and see how tall I am 

aisha esbe's poetry is broadly published, her novella, blood at the roots, will be published by esoterica pr, 




. a working sculptor and writer, wary fuller has 
published an art book, many art articles, murder 
mysteries and short stories, she is presently working 
on a novel. 

ann meredith is a documentary photographer tvho 
has been chronicling women's culture for the last 
seventeen years. 

The mugging of 70-year-old Rudy frightened some of us, and 
Thelma began to dye her hair. Rudy was bitter about it. He had 
taught poor kids how to make airplanes in the trade school all of 
his life, and now to have his fingers broken by a dude who asked 
him the time of day at eleven in the morning made him feel like 
a fool, so he was hurt two ways — in his fingers and in his spirit. 
"It won't make any difference," he told Thelma. "They can tell 
you're old by the way you walk." 

The fear changes everything. It spoils things, takes the fun 
away. It makes one think of danger when one never did before. 

'That's a neat hat," this guy painting the side of the building 
yelled at me and 1 was pleased. I like men to think I look good so 
•I said, "Thank you." And he said, "And what's under it looks good 
too." My walk undoubtedly swayed a bit more than before and I 
laughed, felt fine in a little rush of pleasure, then, whop, I 
thought, "I'm alone here in this space with this man, and even 
fflpugh he's grinning and is being so friendly he may not be 
what he seems." And all the delight disappeared, all of the little 
trust and lighthearted bit of foolery we'd had together was gone, 
pdl lowered my head and hurried away feeling both afraid and 
d <sgusted with myself for feeling that way. 

The fear is the worst part, and the surprise, because I certainly 
pever thought I would be living in a society where my mother 
would have her throat cut at the age of 87 or that I would be 
atratd to go out alone at night at the age of 65. In fact, I even 

"ought of inventing what I called a "Pop Up Man," an inflatable 
m t ' C f Creature ' like those dinosaurs the Nature Company 

. s for kj ds, that I could put in the seat next to me when I 


'at that. I am very proud of the way my mother handled her 

s.,ji, . ' U P t0 Santa Rosa for my night classes. Maybe it's not a bad 
jdeaatthauam ' 

f ror but she stopped driving after that; she was afraid to go out 

to the car where it had happened. 

See, there it is again. That it happens in the most ordinary and 
unexpected ways, in the bright simple light of day, not in the 
fearsome dark of the night. Someone asks you the time at eleven 
in the morning. Mom was going to the driveway of her house, 
into her car at two in the afternoon. She got into the front seat of 
the old Chevy, closed the door, and the guy grabbed her by the 
hair, yanked her head around so they faced each other eye to eye 
and pulled up this straight razor and slashed her neck. He 
missed her jugular by a half-inch, probably because my mother, 
like all of the rational British middle class who demand explana- 
tions from life, opened her mouth to ask, "What do you think you 
are doing, young man?" 

So, the fear is based on reality. Old women are injured and 
robbed, as are old men. Our society does not respect age, does 
not teach and train for the idea that it is despicable to take advan- 
tage of a weaker person; on the contrary, our dominant morality 
seems to be saying, "Go for the sucker." Bomb Libya. Kail Quad- 
dafi's kids. Invade Grenada. It's just a little island full of weak 
blacks with no guns. 

The fear is not foolish. Caution is wise. Dye your hair. The Pop 
Up Man is probably to be on the market soon. My mother lives 
behind barred windows in the little house where we all grew up 
and no longer drives her car. I have not yet tinted my hair but I 
try to walk assertively and I rarely go out at night and I wear a hat 
more than I used to. It is definitely time for a change and the 
responsibility for that change lies with us, with women. We must 
spearhead the change because we are the ones who suffer the 
most from the present situation. Easy to say, hard to do, but we're 
thinking on it and thinking hard. It is bad enough to be old but to 
be old and afraid is awful. 


wendy ann ryden lives and writes in orange, nj and teaches writing at the new jersey institute of technology. 

It was the summer of our coming of 
age that the woman who lived on the cor- 
ner of Pierrepont and Montague Place in 
the ground-floor apartment lost her 
mind. Maybe she had been crazy all 
along and no one ever knew. After all, 
Mrs. Eva Boa was an old woman. God 
only knew how old she was. Before she 
went crazy, she had been a very normal, 
quiet lady. A neat, small grandmother of a 
person who seemed to live alone, she 
could occasionally be seen doing her 
marketing at Hicks Deli or carrying her 
laundry about the street in her old-per- 
son's cart, her head always inclined 
slightly down, the corners of her mouth 
always turned slightly up. She was a 
pleasant, gentle-looking woman and 
therefore completely uninteresting to 
us — a marauding gang of pre-teens. We 
found the antics of another old person 
much more appealing. 

Loony Luke, as he was nicknamed, was 
a timeless vagabond whose clothes and 
dirt seemed as ancient as his wrinkles. 
He was publicly garrulous and disagree- 
able — you see, he had an effect on peo- 
ple — and he was, therefore, intensely 
interesting. He stood on the street cor- 
ner in his cardboard sandals, crusty tow- 
el wrapped around him like a toga, and 
long, matted white hair and beard hang- 

ing impressively around his shoulders. 
Whenever he saw our troupe coming, he 
would thunder in an authoritative exu- 
berance: "I have the answers; I am the 
Word. Mot, Jepense,- done, moi, Je suis. 
And it is better that I should rule in Hell 
than serve in Heav'n for I, Johannes Cli- 
macus, assume that there awaits me a 
highest good, an eternal happiness ..." 
And on he would go, giving us an eclec- 
tic, although skewed, introduction to 
Western philosophy. Luke terrified and 
thrilled us, yet, after so many years, ter- 
ror and thrill had become comfortably 

We were, then, in need of expanding 
our understanding; frankly, we needed a 
shock, something new to get us going 
that very first warm evening of summer 
that the five of us stood on the corner of 
Pierrepont sucking ice pops. We had as- 
sembled at the entrance of the Prome- 

nade, as we had every evening so far 
since school let out, always around that 
time of twilight when the sun gilds stone 
buildings, right before it plunges and 
leaves murky dusk, Tired of playing, of 
not playing, of everything, really, yet re- 
ally not tired at all, we lingered, not 
ready to go home. I watched Virginia 
struggle with last year's halter top that 
now clung too closely to her, while I 
licked the sugar and salt of the cherry ice 
that rolled down my damp arm. In the 
heat and boredom, Diana lazily tilted 
back her head like she was waiting for a 
grape, arching her neck and back and 
opening her mouth to allow in I he drop- 
lets of sweetness. I tugged at the midriff 
knot I had made in my blouse and lay 
down on a small spot of moist grass, the 
blades tickling and itching my legs, while 
Adam and Michael, having removed 
their T-shirts, climbed on the Prome- 
nade railing, the whiteness of their small 
arms and chests looking gray-green in :; 
the dimming light. Virginia and Diana lay 
down, too, the three of us head to head 
forming a star, staring up into the muggy .j 
sky and waiting for Venus to appear over 
the harbor. 

Suddenly, Michael squealed from h' s \ 
perch, his Adam's apple jutting oui "Hey. 



i far 
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rover ; ; 

It was at that moment, as if in response 
to our restlessness, that Eva Boa chose to 
>fill her ground-floor apartment with 
|1|ht,*to illuminate those large street- 
Kjevel windows that shown out through 
the darkness like full moons on a clear 
night, drawing our gazes inside: a 
glimpse through a portal. And at that 
' same moment, as if she knew she had 
our attention, just as if it were intended 
for us to see, she chose this same, oppor- 
tune moment to undress. 

<^h, I suppose the spectacle was ac- 
tually banal enough, but we watched it 
like a striptease, not speaking, but with a 
single-purposefulness that would have 
been embarrassing had we thought 
about it, had we not all been so intensely 
participating. With her back turned to- 

- ward us, Eva removed her summer dust 
. frock. The light shown on the frail, with- 
ered body which was divided into parts 

-by the hip-high cotton undergarment 
and the thick strap of the harness-like 
brassiere. First the brassiere went, then 
the voluminous drawers, all the time 

■ with her back to us. Then, as if we had 
been tantalized enough, she turned and 
'talked up to the frame of the window, 

.-holding an antique gold brush with 

-which she began stroking her long gray 
hair, now released from its bun. She 
stood there, her diminutive shoulders 

- s « r Prisingly straight, her hand on one of 
«K. hips where her little bulk had accu- 
mulated, the tiny, elongated breasts lying 

•Vain >t her bony chest. Under her spell/l 
^■'tall about the two boys behind me 
lurched hk e lifeless gargoyles on the 
f dl mg, as I watched the smile that Eva 
2 i always threatened burst into a wide, 

fire^'"' d ' rV ""' "' '"' ;l11 '"' , '" , ' ! ' 

)"S""-i. Diana, and I stood up to- 

Kri C ° nnected by some invisible 

'-..mat drew us toward Eva as well as 

ourselves. The night began to feel like 
the dark-blue velvet of the stage curtain 
that hung in the old school's audito- 
rium — something that was being pulled 
aside for Eva's debut. I think we might 
have clapped, yes, I think we had stood 
up to give her a standing ovation when 
the giggle came from behind us. 

At first the noise seemed to lose itself 
in the thickness of the air, to get muffled 
in the warm velvet that was cloaking us. 
But the intrusion persisted, became 
loud, dramatic, pushing its way through 
and finally tearing down the curtain 
from around Eva's stage — leaving her ut- 
terly naked — and forcing us to turn away 
from her. We looked at Adam and Mi- 
chael, once again wearing their T-shirts, 
as white as the robes of priests, looking 
like their old selves again, as they stood 
up on the railing above us, defying its 
edge, pointing at Eva's window and 

"Look at those titties," Adam 

"And look at, at — " Michael broke off, 
grabbing his stomach in a fresh release 
of laughter. 

Like a strand of beads cut from a wom- 
an's neck, the string between Virginia, 
Diana, and me broke and scattered us at 
the boy's feet, small smiles stuck on our 
faces as we lapsed into the shadows of 
the railing. I tugged at my knotted shirt, 
trying to cover my cold and clammy mid- 
dle. I watched from the side how Virginia 
hunched like a vulture and folded her 
arms in front of her. Diana simply looked 
at her feet, smiling that smile of idiocy. 
Who started first? I don't remember, but 
gradually the three of us shuffled toward 
the boys' pedestal, forming a half-circle 
around them, throwing in our hesitancy 
for the comfort and relief of laughter un- 
til we were all in full swing, together 

again, laughing — at Eva. The pitch in- 
creased, increased to the point where I 
thought for sure something would give 
way, and finally I yelled, "Hey, we better 
get out of here. Somebody's coming, 
I think." 

My words were a marble aimed at the 
center of the group. We were dispelled 
in every direction, still giggling in that 
nervous terror. Down Colombia 
Heights, up Hicks Street, across Monta- 
gue. We ran back to those homes — those 
safe homes that we had recently been so 
loathe to return to — all because this 
crazy woman, out of her mind (of that we 
were now certain), was brashly grinning 
her huge vacant at us through her 
ground-floor portal as though it were 
some kind of promise. 

■fc^ut Eva was something to be reck- 
oned with. At first it was just our secret. 
Every evening, through some intrinsic 
understanding, we would meet the boys 
at the same spot and watch Eva's nightly 
show. Because we got used to the sight, 
we got brave, and each night when the 
unveiling occurred, we stayed on the 
street corner a little longer, risking the 
wrath of our parents for violating our 
curfews and risking God (or Loony Luke 
maybe) only knew what by remaining to 
take in what Eva offered us. Adam led the 
assault on the menace — for I suppose 
that is what it had become for us: that 
perverse version of femaleness which 
Eva presented — using profanity with 
moderate proficiency. He and Michael 
practiced, in the language that would 
carry us through to adulthood, lewdly 
poking and jabbing at Eva, sharpening 
their horns by finding inventive descrip- 
tions for all that she displayed so 
proudly: the sagging breasts, the broad 
hips, the flabby belly, the furred, soft 
growth in the middle of it all. Virginia, 
Diana and I found our niche in the affair; 
we stood behind the boys egging them 
on, laughing — oh, always laughing as if 
our lives depended on it — at each insult 
so that we were all truly bonded together 
in what had become the greatest of 

But Eva continued undaunted, un- 
abashed in her vespertine ritual; our se- 
cret meetings and the business 
transacted became another something 
that was comfortably predictable. We be- 
gan to dare, double dare, triple dare 
each other — the stakes were high — to 
move closer, go beyond the limits we 
had set for ourselves. Finally it was 
Adam, the most brave and fearless of us 
all, who accepted the challenge, or 
rather, assumed the responsibility. 


On the evening that Adam took mat- 
ters in hand, the rest of us hid in the for- 
sythia bushes, long since gone green, 
that bordered the edge of Eva's small 
lawn. The distance from our vantage 
point to Eva's window could not have 
been more than ten yards, but nonethe- 
less Adam's journey seemed impres- 
sively long as we watched him stealthily 
make his way across patches of grass, 
darting from tree to shrub, pivoting 
around a sprinkler; he was a regular G.I. 
Joe. In the meantime, the rest of us hud- 
dled close to Michael. As Adam moved 
closer to the window, Eva's light re- 
flected off his features, giving identity to 
the small, dark prowler. He was directly 
underneath the window ledge when he 
craned his neck back to see what was in- 
side. At that moment, an irretrievable 
moment, a strange look— an indescrib- 
able impotence — grazed the boy's glis- 
tening face, transforming him from an 
intended hero back into a child, a very 
frightened child. There was a quickening 
of our hearts, perhaps it was just my 
heart, I don't know, perhaps no one else 
even noticed the hesitancy. Perhaps I 
imagined the whole thing, or perhaps it 
was just a gloating moment before an in- 
sured triumph, because in the next in- 
stant, he reached up and forcefully 
banged on Eva's windowpane and then 
just as quickly tore away, keeping low, 
until he dove into the sanctuary of the 
bush. Adam had returned to us victori- 
ous, and the laughter of conquest, of re- 
lief, to which we had become 
accustomed, spilled out of us like hot, 
uncontainable lava. 

"you did it!" The words sput- 
tered out of us mechanically, but no less 
enthusiastically, as we congratulated 
Adam. "You did it." Virginia was the first 
to say it, and then each of us began re- 
peating the words, like a dull chant. "You 
did it, you did it, I can't believe what you 
did," said over and over in rasped whis- 
pers. To confess? To convince? Some- 
thing else? Well, I don't know. . . . 

But I remember Adam's response to 
our chorus: "I don't think anybody saw 
me. Did anybody see. me?" in a breath- 
lessness that made me wonder even then 


what kind of a question that was to ask 
during a victory' celebration. But none of 
us would admit any dissatisfaction with 
the moment. That the event had been of 
short duration didn't disturb us, didn't 
lessen its intensity. Not really. And none 
of us really thought about Eva after it was 
over. After all, she was the given in the sit- 
uation. I remember looking at her one 
last time after Adam had done his deed. 
In response to the intrusion, Eva had 
bent her head down, and the big round, 
toothless grin lost its turned-up edges. 
The contentment, the pride, that had 
filled her face and frame vanished as her 
eyes searched the darkened lawn for her 
caller. She stared vacantly, both hands 
helpless at her side, the O becoming big- 
ger, becoming her face. Becoming her. 

^Kva stopped coming to the window 
after that, so our business with her was 
finished. Loony Luke took on renewed 
importance in our lives. He had taken to 
wearing his toga at half-mast (we sup- 
posed at the time for reasons of style, not 
guessing he was covering the boils that 
would eventually leave him legless). We 
would taunt and tease him as he deliv- 
ered his sermons in front of St. Anne's 
church, always counting on a strong re- 
buttal from him to put us in our places. 
One day, for the sheer terror of it, Diana 
and I sneaked up behind Luke during the 
climax of one of his speeches and furi- 
ously hurled a stone at his wall of a back. 
Luke turned, woolly sunken chest bris- 
tling, and chased us all the way down 
Joralemon Street. I remember hearing 
the rest of the kids laughing as we ran 
away. Laughing at Diana and me. 

But summer ended and junior high 
began; the curtain of one season 
wrenched closed, another's torn open. 
Halters and midriffs had been cast off in 
favor of wool dresses and first nylons, in- 
appropriate for the weather that was still 
warm. I looked for changes: the occa- 
sional pair of shaved legs or the touch of 
forbidden lipstick. Virginia, Diana and I 
cowered together, trying to ward off the 
hard glares of the older students who oc- 
cupied the central schoolyard, the 
younger, like ourselves, having been 
forced to the periphery. 

It was a terrible feeling, standing in ex- 
clusion, knowing the contempt the older 
girls had for us. The feeling was terrible 
in its newness, even though deep down 
we had known what to expect. We did 
our best to combat it by talking about 
having a locker for the first time, having a 
homeroom, having to take a shower after 
gym class. I watched Adam and saw how 
he, in his group, was doing no better 

than we were. He, too, had b ec . 
gated to the outer court to sun] rtlc " 
those of his own kind— skinny 'ch l''" 1 
necked boys whose freshly cli DD ', , Cfl ' 
had deprived them of all 'the vitl 
the past summer's influence St-V'' 
them as they were— that was the tJ'" 8 
betrayal to my mind, the biggest it S\ 
was feeling like I was reach- to do a 
thing, anything to put an end to ihe W a?t 
was feeling, anything about this inju.stir, 
that had been dealt to me, when Virni 
brought up the subject of Eva Boa. ^ 
"Sophie," she said to me, "I h earc | m „ 
parents talking last night. You'll 
guess what. You know Eva Boa' Vi'eJI 
Mrs. Boa's daughter had to come from" 
Westchester to get her and take her away' 
from her apartment." : j 

I didn't want to here it. I had myself to ' 
worry about. "Well, so what, sc 
daughter came," I said. . ■ 

"Don't you want to know why 
"No. I don't care." 

Virginia went on, compelled "One 
night," she stuttered, "one night the po . 
lice found her running around on the ': 
lawn without any clothes on. Nako 
jaybird. All the lights in her apartment 
were on and the front window was wide 

BTTBy rage doubled back on me like 
a hunted fox. The three of us bent out ■ 
heads and studied the dirt embedded on 
the concrete where we stood. I knew.* 
what I wanted. I wanted my two friends,! 
wanted the three of us to pick up that in-' 
visible thread and restring ourselves and 
walk arm in arm out of the schoolyard, 
away from all of it, all of them. I suppose ! 
what I was looking for was a second .; 
chance. Finally, I dared to ask, "Well, 
what happened?" 

"The police called her daughter and 
she came down and got her. " 

"But, I mean, what will happen to 

"My mother says they'll put her in a 
home in Westchester. My mother says the : 
Boas have lots of money." 

I was relieved by that. Virginia contin- 
ued, "My mother says it's just as well. She 
says Eva Boa had gone crazy and that it's 
for her own good that her daughter is 
putting her away." Virginia turned her 
head and looked at me hopefully. 

"Yes, that's right," I assured her. "Eva 
Boa was just a crazy old lady. " 

The bell rang and we forgot about Eva 
and the summer that had just ended. I 
stopped looking at Adam and the other 
boys in our class. I stood behind Diana 
and Virginia and watched the older boys 
and everyone else line up at the door. 






Mil $SlsP 








hannah wilke is a conceptual! performance artist and 
sculptor of a feminist iconography. 





in the year 1974, unknown to me at the time, physical 
changes which were completely out of my control conspired to 
disrupt the lifestyle which I had planned for myself. 

I was newly married. I'd successfully completed four years of 
college and had landed a job as a music teacher in a school dis- 
trict within driving distance of my home. After my first year of 
teaching I was married, in June, to Paul, who was a businessman, 
environmentalist, and social activist in my hometown. I thought 
the course of my life had been pre-ordained. I was going to be 
the typical 70s woman who after about three years of marriage, 
and the purchase of a new home, would begin raising a two- 


child family while still retaining a profession. I hadn't reallv 
stopped to think if this was what I wanted, it was simply what I 
would do; it was what my contemporaries were doing. 

Then, in less than the span of a summer vacation, 1 was forced 
to deal with changes and realities which could never have been 
predicted. The entire course of my life was changed. 

After much testing, I was diagnosed in August of 1974 as a vic- 
tim of Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE). SLE is a somewhat 
uncommon disease of the immune system which may affect ma- 
jor organs. It commonly attacks young women. There is no 
known cause, and although there are various therapies beine 
used, there is no cure. Symptoms vary from person to person. At 
the time of my diagnosis, the physical changes in my life were 
minimal, which in some ways made mental adjustment more 

It is terrifying to slam into your own mortality and to be told a 
disease may be life-threatening when the physical changes are 
negligible to non-existent. 

It was almost as if I were speaking of a third person in discus- 
sions with my doctors or my husband. There was supposed to be 
this sick person, but it couldn't possibly be me. Other than a 
chemical diagnosis, I was as functional as I'd ever be ■: ■ 

9 did the only thing that was reasonable under the circum- ' 
stances: I denied its existence. The only tangible consequence at 
that time was a request from my specialist that I postpone any 
plans for pregnancy for a couple of years until he could see what 
course the disease would take. I hated the word 'disease'; that 
word should be reserved for sick people. The request concern- 
ing pregnancy did not even ruffle me, because it seemed to be a 
temporary thing, and I hadn't really planned on children so early 
in my married life. So, although intellectually I knew there was a 
problem, emotionally I had not yet begun to deal with it. 
. For two years I was able to completely deny the existence of 
SLE because it had little impact on my physical state or my life 
state. Then in the spring of 1976, 1 experienced a radical change. 
The change had been occurring physically since January, and I 
had been frantically and successfully denying it. I'd become very 
tired most of the time, had lost about twenty pounds, and I was 
suffering from bouts of arthritis, nausea, and headaches. I'd re- 
fused to face reality, which in hindsight makes me appear very 
naive, but I was convinced it was simply overwork, grad school, 
job, marriage, househunting. I'd promised myself a lengthy 
summer vacation to settle down and set things straight. Summer 
vacation never arrived. I could no longer walk and was hospital- 
ized one Friday night. 

My prognosis had changed somewhat. I was now living 
through the first of many periods of violent exacerbation of the 
disease, and more intensive and varied diagnostic procedures 
revealed extensive kidney involvement (acute nephritis). I spent 
about a month in the hospital. I was put on extensive media- 

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tion mostly cortisone and immunosuppressants, and there 
seemed to be no immediate improvement in the results of the 
tests being administered daily. There was a tremendous decline 
in both my mental and physical states. After an exhaustive month 
of this therapy, I was released into my husband's care, with the 
admonition to remain strictly on my medication regimen. They 
could not make me well. This time, in my depressed physical 
and mental state, I was forced to face some ugly facts. I really was 
the victim of this insidious chronic disease for which was known 
no cure nor cause. This disease had attacked my vital organs 
(kidneys), therapy did not seem to be working, and many peo- 
ple who had been in my situation were now simply statistics. 
Certainly there was hope that the therapy would take hold and a 
remission would occur, but to me that hope was a distant one. 

In addition, all sorts of restrictions were placed on me. It's 
very hard to deal with physical limitations, and I had rapidly de- 
scended from an athletic, healthy individual to being weak, 

" short of breath, fatigued, and depressed. 

The things I was being told I remember vividly, and they hurt 
-me deeply — not to do stairs for a while, not to ride my horse, 
once again not to even consider a pregnanq', and to seriously 

' think of giving up my job. I did not want to be economically de- 
pendent on anyone, even my husband. 

. My first reaction, I think, was a tremendous fear. For the first 
time in my life I was possessed by an all-consuming fear, primar- 
ily of death. Every day I wondered if maybe this was the last, and I 
was certain I'd never see Christmas. 

Secondly, I became overcome with anger and bitterness. I 
didn't really deserve this, I'd worked hard, according to the pre- 
scription for success; it was supposed to be my turn to begin 

■' raping the rewards of that labor. 

. _ Finally, and perhaps most important, from today's perspec- 
tive, came an overwhelming feeling of sadness. Despite the 
grumbling I was frequently prone to, I really liked my life, and 
everyone in it. It was the first time that I had seriously consid- 
ered this fact. With this last realization began a dramatic change 
in myscll 

-Iliad much time for introspection and I came to the realiza- 
tion that the people who surrounded me and my relationships 

'luuhenuvere far, far, more important than the trappings of life 

' W which I had been striving. I had finally come to realize that 

k> 1 an< ^ re ' ati0nsn 'ps, not money and possessions, are the 

- -<0 St . Uff of life - At tnat point, and I think it may have been partly 

"I)o C ' 0US ' part ' y unc onscious, I began to try and live by the old 

; !e riJ 1I j l00thers " adage - when >' ou are reall y on the botrom > ma - 

-. "lings cannot add to or create happiness, but people can; 

1*°P!c had made 

.^i this i 

my life worth taking very seriously. 

iismi'I s ' DOint ' * si mply bottomed out. For some reason, and 
Iu>|.io r UnC , wllether tne medical regimen had begun to take 
n >v own body had garnered its strongest defenses, the 

disease went into a period of remission, and my life began to 
return to a more normal state. 

Things would never be the same; the course of my future had 
been irrevocably altered. I would learn to cope. I gave up a 
steady job. I learned to squeeze every hour out of ever)' day 
when my health was in a normal state. I'd been told to avoid ten- 
sion and fatigue, supposed triggers of my disease. I became 
much more tolerant. For me, tolerance was a method of dealing 
with tension. I found it helpful to force myself to stop and put 
events into proper perspective; frequently I'd find that these 
events were not as important as they'd appeared on cursory ex- 
amination. I'd always been a high-energy, competitive person; I 
learned to harness the energy, and sometimes put aside the 
competitive spirit. I learned to slow down and ruminate on 
smaller events. 

Over the ten years following diagnosis we lived a yo-yo life. 
There were quite a few bad flare-ups of the disease. In between I 
did manage to run a small retail business, obtain an M.A., begin a 
local arts council. We purchased a ramshackle old property, and 
turned it into a picturesque horse farm. I've learned to drive, as a 
hedge against the day when I may no longer be able to ride. We 
still have no children, and I may never again hold a full-time job. 
We do have a very full life, though. Both Paul and I are heavily 
engaged in community and environmental concerns, and music 
and horses remain an important part of my existence. 

Hhey have still not discovered a cause or cure for SLE, but 
advances have been made in both diagnosis and treatment, and 
research is ongoing. As is the case with any serious disease there 
are risks and trade-offs to any therapy undertaken. I was last hos- 
pitalized about two years ago. It was, I feel, the hardest time I've 
ever had. Once again my body, my immune system, had turned 
on my kidneys, attacking them and treating them as foreign ob- 
jects. My kidney function decreased radically, I became symp- 
tomatic, and very ill. Treatment which I'd been on did not seem 
to be working. The decision was made to go to chemotherapy. I 
will not reiterate the horrors of chemotherapy, but suffice it to 
say that it lives up to its reputation. Yet, I am grateful to chemo- 
therapy; it seems to have temporarily caged this demon inside of 
my body. I feel that I finally have come to acceptance. We still live 
under a constant shadow, but realize that life can be worthwhile, 
under almost any circumstances. Having had this to deal with 
has made me more appreciative of others, and through every 
single bad time, I have been reawakened to the fact that there are 
very many caring human beings in this world. I've had to fight 
alone because it is I who carry this disease, and it is my will 
which must make the decision to fight, but my strength is possi- 
ble because of the network of family and friends of which this 
disease has made me gratefully aware. 

maty ferraro lives in forest city, pa. she has an m.a. in music, and is a freelance 
■writer with an interest in equine subjects. 


Carole stone is an associate professor of english at 
montclair state college where she teaches creative 
writing and literature. 

in old Greek woman strips 
mourning robes down 
to a knee-length bathing suit, 
and dog-paddles among young boys 
who dive around her 
like dolphins. 

Weightless in the salt, 
wet hair streaming, 
she takes joy from the sea, 
turns back into the olive beauty 
her husband married. 

^given this small mercy, 

she rises with the waves, 

an Aphrodite like the many 

I've seen in museum after museum. . 

^»n the beach, 
once more in black, she goes 
unnoticed by the Swedish girls 
sprawled on the sand, white bellies up, 
like dead fish. 


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Exempts of this article by EM. Broner were integrated into an 
'original sound score of the same name by Susan Stone, commis- 
sioned by Voices Radio Foundation, 1986. The performance is 
documented in a film by Suzanne Lac}> and Kathleen Laugh I in 
Whisper, The Waves, the WindJ. For more information, write S. 
fjfacyCCAC, 5212 Broadway, Oakland, CA 94618. 

■ On May 19, 1984, "Whisper, Woe Waves, the Wind," a public per- 
tfortnance created by Suzanne Ijacy, took place on a sunny 
y beach in La folia, CA. In this piece, an assembled audience 
watched and listened to 150 elderly, white-clad women talk 
f about their lives and the special joys and problems of aging. 
Voices, a radio production agency commissioned "Whisper- 
ings, " a sound-piece for radio, as a collaboration between Su- 
zanne Lac}>, Susan Stone (composer, producer) and EM. Broner 
(whose mother participated in the performance). Following is 
the text Broner wrote and recorded for the radio piece. ( For fu r- 
ther information on the "Whisperings" radio piece please write 
to Voices, #2 Washington Square Village, Apt. 16-J, NY, NY 

I walk on the cliffs of Lajolla with my mother. 

Whispers waft up from the sea to the cliff, almost surd, almost 
inaudible. The whispers clarify, a breathy laugh, a lullaby, the in- 
trigue of lovers. It's as if the listener were a conch shell, a pearl 
of ear. 

My mother and I eavesdrop on the ocean. 

I have accompanied her to Lajolla from her home in Leisure 
World, a retirement community. Mother is away from Dad for the 
first time in fifty-eight years. 

"vve look below at the beach where the tables are being set 
upforthe performers. The waves beat against the sea wall. The 
ocean slaps the shore of Children's Cove. It's an amphitheatre of 
natural elements. The stage is the beach and we, the audience, 
are in bleachers, standing on the sea wall or seated in chairs 
where die rock has been hewn into alcoves. 
" J' lis is your sta 8 e set > mother," I tell her. 

ihe production people are setting up speakers next to us. 
Ihey box them and weight them with sand bags. The discourse 
,. -Otthe women will travel" from the beach below up to the round, 
olack mouths of these boxes. 

l m getting nervous," says mv mother. "Let's talk over the 

on th m0rr ° W the P roduction crew wi " spread white tablecloths 
Qn tl \^ iCS " Around each lable the Y wiU P lace four chairs, and, 
•; wjf- C h ' wil1 be a sheet of four questions. 

- this d ! S th ' S day t0 be different from ail other da V s? Because, on 

ihei ^ e ^ er ' y wom en will be oracles at the sea, speaking in 

. . rue range, from deep to high, about matters of import: 

their aging, preparations for dying, their sense of freedom, how 
they feel about the women's movement. 

Some of these questions, I, a daughter, could never ask, and 
yet our mothers and grandmothers must speak of the body in 
which they dwell, must think of their time as finite. 

zanctSLOther and I read the sign near the Life Guard Station 
that is headquarters for the event: "Whisper/The Waves/The 
Wind: This is a work of art." 

My mother is a work of art. 

"Do you like my white slack suit?" my mother asks. 

Like all the others in the great flock with their down-covered 
heads, Mother will be in white. They will be walking on white 
tennis shoes, white Red Cross shoes with heavy arch support, on 
shiny white plastic shoes, on white leather moccasins, the stead- 
ier among them on thongs, on heels. 160 elderly women, from 
sixty-two to ninety-nine years of age, will be heading toward 
the sea. 

■vvomen have always headed to water. 

Women and water. 

At the shore 

Beating our clothes 

Washing our bodies 

Washing our hair 

A bed of hair 

Spreading the wet hair, 

Separating it, playing it like a harp 

as it dries, 

Filling the cooking pots, 

Watering the plants, 

And, in our bodies, a sack of water, 

A floating sack of water. 

"Suzanne said we cannot wear colorful hats," says my mother, 
"or carry our purses." 

She, like all elderly women, worries about her purse, a handle 
on her life, an attache case of her artifacts: the billfold, compact, 
comb, hanky, pills, lipstick, cologne flask, and 3x5 cards with 
her notes for the questions that will be asked at the shore. 

"Someone will guard all the purses," I say. 

The waters of the Pacific have become choppy. The sunset is 
pink, a hint of purple, a swath of cloud. The rock outcroppings 
are fierce against the soft sky. 

:ar^7»_y mother, Beatrice, and I are sharing a double bed at 
the motel in Lajolla. The drapes are slightly drawn. My mother's 
face is lit by the moon. She is a different mother from the mother 
I knew as a child. She feels different, the feel of her skin is softer; 
her hair has tamed its curls. Her mouth is opened with her 
breathing. Her teeth have changed. The silver in the cavities has 
darkened. She has gaps in her mouth. They are not the even 
white teeth that, until late in life, never needed filling or pulling. 

"The dentist never asks me," she told me the first day of my 
visit, "he just pulls." 

Now it's an old fence, pickets missing. 

I would place an iron on the time past, smooth out the fore- 
head, color the hair, tighten the chin. 

We have to search for our mothers behind the glint of glasses, 
the block of hearing aid. 

I feel suddenly afraid. I want to awaken her to comfort me. I 
am afraid of losing her. I am afraid of aging. 

"Mama," I want to say. "Don't leave me. Mama," I whisper, "I 
feel the slackening of youth. " 

There is an avalanche occurring, a slippage. The calendar is 


reckoning time at a reckless speed. All my features will slide off 
my face. My chin will rest on my chest. My eyes will become reac- 
quainted with my toes. My breasts and belly will be one hump. 
And my mother, who has been the young woman of my baby- 
hood, playing snowballs with me, the young matron with dark 
hair parted to the side and large grey eyes, the mother who, still 
young and slender, helped me with her first granddaughter. All 
of those mothers cannot be gone from me — heading out to sea. 
May 19th dawns, a warm, bright day. The white-clad women 
cross the street to the cliff, and one by one they disappear over 
the edge. They reappear far below walking heavily on the sand. 
My mother is like a somnambulist, taking slow steps on the un- 
steady surface, as she walks toward her table and her questions. 

A woman is already speaking and gesturing. A black bird sits 
on the sand close to her table. 

Who would expect to see elderly women taking over the 
beach? It is customary for the beach to belong to the smoothly 
oiled body, the bikini, the muscled athlete. It is surrealistic and 
unexpected to see this multitude of elderly women sitting in this 

" "^s/v^hen I climbed down the stairs," my mother told me 
later, "and saw the blue sky meeting the ocean, I thought I had 
stepped into heaven." 

is not 


There is my mother at a distance, but my mother 
mother. She is not cooking. She is not serving. She is sn T " "" 
ease with her peers. I see her sweet face. She looks so nr . 8 ' ai 
gestures theatrically like an actress. uu V$hc 

She had told me yesterday on the balcony of the motel- 

"I thought I would become an actress. I was acting in )> 
and then in Poland for those two years that we waited f 
visas. I thought in America I would surely act, but I had to r ° Ur 
in the laundry to help pay back the passage for the six of n^ 
aunt had borrowed. So I went to work in the laundry. And i\ ""' 
married. Now, sixty years later, at the age of eighty-one i*" 1 
competing with Hollywood starlets." ' ' am 

The women speak and look at one another again:-; i ; 
panse of water. I wonder, in the losses of their lives, if th e b^ 
scape empties in old age like the gaps in the mouth Arevo ' 
always looking with your tongue for that missing tooth, reman ; 
bering, in startlement, a missing friend, a brother? 

Their stories told, the women can depart, ascend those diffi - 
cult stairs. The young people will pull them up, as th 
women pulled the young up in age. 

A don't want you to go from me, Mama. Even if you give away 
your wavy hair to me, your hazel eyes to my daughter. I doni 
want you to go away. I need you. Promise you won't go a 
need your steadiness. 

e.m. broner has written five books and is on her sixth, the repair shop, she is iht 
recipient of an nea grant, and is guest writer at sarah lawrence college. 



mm* m 



^ litd 





5 my 
I am 

-' ex- ' 
and; 5 
you ; 


: Old 


vay. I 




JK***- 1 



The role of older women in the public 
sphere is a theme that seems to have a 
special resonance for feminists who 
came of age politically in the late sixties 
and early seventies and who are con- 
fronting the aging of themselves, their 
mothers, their movement. The initial eu- 
phoria of liberation has been replaced 
with the sobering recognition of how 
difficult it is to achieve change that is 
more than superficial. 

although the American mass media 
■promotes idealized images of sexually- 
active, career- and consumer-oriented 
women, an increasing number of 
women find themselves politically dis- 
counted and economically disenfran- 
chised. Older women constitute the 
. JTjqst rapidly growing segment of our so- 
ciety, yet they are relatively invisible and 
inaudible in the public sphere. When the 
disadvantaged situation of older women 
ispublically acknowledged, the women 
are usually portrayed as helpless objects 
-•-of pathos. This stereotype camouflages 
.the diverse and complex reality of older 
-Women's lives. And it was the scarcity of 
-...images acknowledging both the strength 
and the struggle of older women that 
• motivated Suzanne Lacy to develop the 

•atrice dark koelsch directs for the center for arts 
riticism in St. paul and writes about contemporary 
■rt arid culture, she coordinated the documentation 
earn for "the crystal quilt. " 

performance piece, "The Crystal Quilt." 
"The Crystal Quilt," performed on 
Mother's Day, was the most visible com- 
ponent of the Whisper Minnesota Pro- 
ject, a multi-generational coalition of 
artists, policy-makers, service providers, 
and community activists organized by 
Lacy to challenge public perceptions 
about women and aging. 

the site of "The Crystal Quilt" was the 
glass-covered IDS center of downtown 
Minneapolis. The aesthetics of the per- 
formance called for the transformation 
of an 82 by 82 foot red and black rug into 
a colorful patchwork quilt, designed by 
painter Miriam Schapiro. In order to 
avoid suggestions of mourning, the 430 
black-clad performers did not form a 
procession but, accompanied by ambi- 
ent sounds of a "typical Minnesota day" 
on a soundtrack by composer Susan 
Stone, they entered gradually from the 
corners of the quilt and unfolded the 
black tablecloths to reveal the red and 
yellow color inside. This slow unfolding 

echoed the painstaking piecework of 
quilt-making. During the subsequent 
forty-five minute performance the 
women discussed their accomplish- 
ments and disappointments, their hopes 
and their fears among themselves while 
the audience listened to the participants' 
recorded reflections on self-image, sex- 
uality, family, community, illness, invisi- 
bility, and activism. On sound cues at 
several intervals they simultaneously 
changed hand positions, altering the pat- 
tern on the quilt. As a finale, the 3,000 
spectators took hand-painted scarves 
from strategically situated volunteers 
and came pn to the quilt to honor the 
performers by presenting them with 
these symbols of public investiture. 

Other contributing artists were Phyllis 
Jane Rose, assistant director; Julie Arnoff, 
hand-painted scarves; Sage Cowles, cho- 
reographer; and Jeannie Spears of the 
Minnesota Quilters. The Whisper Minne- 
sota Project under the leadership of 
Nancy Dennis and a coalition of older 
women continues to organize 
throughout the state. Whisper Minnesota 
Project, P.O. Box 14129, St Paul, MN 

• <^4P^P$SS®is lisp-" fllllilpis 



I have stood knee-deep in children. I have been fire 
tower and warden, lighthouse and lighthouse-keeper, 
rotary and traffic cop. I have worn my soul as wrist watch, 
and, all the while, a bell rang in an empty house, rang 
unanswered, rang for me. Now, in this adolescence of 
late middle age, I have begun to remember how it was to 
be a mother-thing, but I have not yet woven raw edges 
together, not made whole the fabric of my life. 

She is so large with nursing that her naturally wiry figure 
looks very much as mine did. Charlie watched me getting out of 
the bathtub with great interest, and then remarked that he hadn't 
been sure until I put my clothes on that I was not his mother. But 
the nursing is going extremely well this time around, and I think 
one makes the decision each time one stuffs that engorged 
floppy breast against the kid's mouth that this moment of peace 
is worth being overweight. It's just easier. I wonder if I con- 
sciously overeat when teaching on the mistaken assumption 
that it works the same way with these ninety-nine babies as with 
the three. 

m^?hen I see mothers with infants and young chil- 
dren, when I see my daughters who, in their speech, 
their actions, their looks, carry reflections of myself, I 
am overcome with an almost unbearable anxiety. No 
woman, no one, should have to so externalize herself, 
should have to live in such total availability. Nothing is 
too much to do for these women. 

I've been very aware that this is the visit I was supposed to 
make when I took the job instead. Naomi is disappointed that 
Michele doesn't like me: wants her mother and to nurse. Naomi 
keeps telling Michele that this is HER mother, who used to nurse 
her as Michele is nursing now. Michele looks at me doubtfully 
and sucks away. 

Yet anything I do has to be an act of will because, un- 
reasonably but certainly, I am afraid that I may again be- 
come such a mother-thing. I do not think I could 

^m-aomi half believes that these kids understand her. Three 
temper tantrums have been created with Charlie already, in 
which every effort was made to give the child some rational rea- 
son for a conniption fit, some place where the parent is at fault. 
Hell, the kid's been trying to get you to contradict yourself or at 
least say NO for a full hour and a half. 

What can I do to unstress this situation? I retreat to my trailer. 
But they want the sense that we have lived through all this to- 
gether, as we lived through that earlier time, that we understand 
this new irrational child as we perhaps did not understand but 
did live through the experience of the earlier one. 

®-am not so afraid when I am alone with the grand- 
children: perhaps because old patterns take over and I 
am numb again: perhaps because I know that they will 


go back to their parents in a litde while. But -win. 
go, the fear is there, lurking. My very bones achi- «■;!■ '•' 
pain of it. »«htln- 

I want sometime to tell you about the horrendous fig n . 
Naomi which has just coughed forth the crucial fish bon > ^ 
throat: SHE remembers very well what I did/said before" 1 ) 1 ''' 
went out into the storm the decade before the decade 1) >r 
last: I WOULD not stop telling her about car accidents in sto "^ 
Naturally, this explains why she went out into the worst olj ™ 5 j 
we experienced in twenty years with a thin coat, no boots 
money, saying she was never coming back as long as she lived f 
her sisters, who, no doubt, debated for several minutes I 
fore deciding to tell us, at which point it was, of course rath 6 

t>i... I. lie ) ' ' w 

And I feel guilty. These new daughter-moi!ur.s arc im- 
children. They are also my friends. I am jealous of thai 
friendship, hard-won, out of their growing and my 0ttn 
latency. I don't want to play roles now, old roles that have 
not been questioned or redefined. But my dauglum 
have not the energy — I have not the courage — to invent 
new ones. 

Naturally, this explains why she ran away from home in the " 
blizzard when she was ten, but does it explain why she contin- 
ually threatens her three-year-old with leaving forever, and mak- 
ing sure that I hear her doing it? And why she tells him that HE is 
welcome to leave and find another family at any time; she hopes 
he does? Although she doubts he will find anyone who can stand 

I feel guilty. I cannot play the good-grandmother role. 
My mother played that role for me. She kept my children 
when I went on vacations; I always knew sh c v. ould help 
if things got too desperate. She played her role well. I 
don't know if she felt terrified as she played it. I fed 
guilty because I never asked. 

The guilt of mothers and grandmothers being what it is, it 
probably does. I, apparently, who was twenty-three when she 
was born, have more responsibility for Charlie than she does, -: 

















• : .b: 



U lis 

•s. nu 
;d uo 
s he- 

f that 

inihe : 




I feel \ 

it is, it 
ten she'; 
.c does, : 

m • 

S, remember once, when my children were nearly 
er own, Mother came to stay so I could go on a trip. She 
preferred to keep the children at her own house where 
she knew where things were, shops were familiar, and 
friends telephoned all day long; but my children were 
o longer interested in Grandmother's house. So Mother 
came to me. The children, caught in the explosion of 
their adolescence with tasks of growth and reintegra- 
tions Mother could neither understand nor appreciate, 
had no time for her. She could do nothing for them. 
When we returned, my independent, my elegant mother 
was waiting tearfully at the door in a crumpled cotton 
dress. I had not realized until then that Mother was grow- 
ing older, that the world was becoming increasingly in- 
comprehensible and hostile for her. I never discussed it 
with her, and I never again left the children with her. Of 
course, I feel guilty. 

At this point, they have been on food stamps; Rob has been 
unemployed for over a year. They weren't even collecting unem- 
ployment insurance, and, in job interview after job interview, 
Rob was the runner-up after the person they probably had had in 
mind when they advertised to meet the guidelines. 

* am the grandmother now. It is much the same; and 
It is very different. My mother would never have said any 
of these things I am saying. She could not have imagined 
that anyone could share them and not condemn her, for 
she lived in a time when women shared tasks, shared ex- 
periences, shared information, shared almost anything 
but feelings. 

Irma, who was in on the crucial episode at the center of the 
fight and who was the first person Naomi told that she was never 
going to speak to me again, asked Rob and Naomi to send her a 
budget, a realistic one, about how much they would need for the 
year if Rob were to take this period of unemployment and go to 
. school for his masters (which would mean they would lose their 
only societal backing, namely food stamps). One doesn't apply 
for Irma's money unless one is desperate, because it means one 

susan eve jaboda teaches at sarah lawrence college 
and works with silver prints combined with draw- 
ing, painting and collage. 



1 — SEIFR 

exposes oneself to Irma's scrutiny. They decided, I guess, that 
they were desperate. They sent us a copy of the budget, and I 
have to admit it blew my mind. They need $20,000! Of course, 
that includes child care and tuition for two (two children, two 
adults). I guess it blew Irma's mind, too. In the meantime, far 
from stabilizing things, it seems to have contributed an addi- 
tional stress, for now Rob is under pressure to produce for 
Naomi's family, not just Naomi. 

Dealing with a late explosion and reintegration, 
weaving the pieces of my life together, perhaps I can be- 
gin to say what it was like to be a mother, what it is really 
like to be a grandmother; my daughters can agree or dis- 
agree and wonder if it will be like that for them. Perhaps I 
can help a little, but they are the only ones who can mea- 
sure the dimensions of their lives or estimate the space 
into which their children are growing. They must make 
the new designs. 

Meanwhile, I fix my attention on the $500 allotted for Pam- 
pers, and wonder what the world is coming to. (Even though I 
know they have no water for washing diapers part of the year 
even though I know it would not be acceptable to send the kid to 
day care in old sheets and cut-down pajama pants like the dia- 
pers my kids wore, I STILL, in some part of my head, feel that you 
give up Pampers before you go on welfare.) One of the things I 
said to her that she hasn't mentioned, but I knew in my heart 
wasn't right and would rankle, was that if I looked in France for 
those $20, all-cotton jump suits for Michele, I would like her to 
promise to use one of the (totally unused) bibs I know she has 
when she feeds her in it. Naomi doesn't use bibs or playpens; 
she doesn't want to trammel her kids. (She also doesn't see to it 
that Charlie gets a quiet space at naptime.) 

£Orm eanwhile, they stand knee-deep in children. 
They are fire towers and wardens, lighthouses and keep- 
ers, rotaries and traffic cops, and they must have a little 
time to return to their empty houses, to answer their 
own bells. If I can't mind the children while they do, 
we'd better figure out who can. 

I found dozens of garments in a ragbag which had nothing the 
matter with them except stains that any one of even my careless 
contemporaries would have scrubbed up and bleached out. But, 
of course, we were sitting there in Harvard housing, making no 
attempt to go back to school ourselves. AND we KNEW (I am be- 
ginning to think this is really crucial) not only that our status de- 
pended on getting the stains out and having presentable kids, 
but that it would never be easy to get the money to buy more 
baby clothes, that there were dozens of people scouring the bins 
at the Goodwill store for just such little T-shirts, and that life was 
hard for everybody we knew. Now they've got sisters in comput- 
ers with a first-year-of-marriage income of $60,000 and a house 
already purchased. 


nancy tomlinson hall rice is a daughter (of two), a sis- 
ter (of three), a mother (of three), a grandmother (of 
four, going on five), she was informed on January 14, 
1987 that she has "a very large tumor" almost com- 
pletely filling her stomach, she is currently working 
feverishly on the story of her life. 

ann thacher has been married forty-five years, has 
five children, four grandchildren, numerous commu- 
nity service jobs, in numerous communities, at sixty- 
six, writing seems the most important work, today 
and tomorrow the most important times. 



stiff tarpaulin 


can stay tomorrow's 

sluice toward spring, 

nor can the crow 

wing-raking in the raucous sky 

uncover spring 


§ saw an old woman in a nursing home last week, having gone there to visit another 
woman, who writes poems about the solstice. The poet was at the hairdresser. Since the 
poet is blind and deaf, I decided not to announce my presence and visit there, but wait 
until she got back to her room, where at least I could be present with her, and she might 
feel the afternoon sunlight at the same time. 

So I lurked about the door to the hairdresser's hangout, leaning on it and making 
it clear to myself that I could escape if I needed to. 

In seasons' shipwreck, 

Mother, you and I, 

caught at luncheon 

in the window's bay, 


family faces like a fortune 

deck, and say, 

While I was there, a lot of wheelchair people sort of rolled themselves about in their 
chairs near me, or fell asleep, or got wheeled a few yards by somebody or other. It was 
very haphazard. No one was going anywhere. 

I noticed some things. The hair had grown very long on the legs of one lady. I 
thought it was nice they didn't insist on shaving it off. Lots of people had very strange 
skin. I thought about how the skin looks on my left foot since I poured boiling water on 
it last month. 

say how they change. 

We stir sky fragments 

in a coffee cup, 

and watch black boughs 

of apple trees 

bloom bright 

behind our eyes. 




after moving to bouston, lydia bodnar-balahutrak 
worked on a group of drawings and paintings focus- 
ing or. the elderly and the life/death cycle. 

Anyway, this one very clear-eyed and purposeful woman rolled up and halted by me. 
"Where am I?" she said. I said I didn't know. Where did she want to be? She said, "I don't 
know. I don't think 1 have a home. Do I?" 

Noon's shiny surface 

starts to crack. 


too young to marry, 

too old to haul 

in their perambulators 

call me back. 

I could see I was in for it. "I don't know," I said. "What's your name?" (Thinking I 
could go and ask.) She didn't know. 

"I can't remember," she said. "I've told them so many different ones. I'm over a hun- 
dred," she added. Not true, I'm sure. But she looked very thoughtful, and the above 
conversation took perhaps five, perhaps ten minutes. 

You need not be alone. 

"Wou have your telephone, 

and friends, 

and odds and ends 

of wintry springs. 

You have . . . 

your things. 


o I tried to think of how to deal with this home of hers. Especially since 
she thought nothing was left any more, and I had been selected as the likeliest 
hope she had of finding out where she was and where she was going. 

I seized on the rings. She had two, and they were rather large and flashy. One 
was a diamond not unlike my mother's that she sold to get my brother out to Cali- 
fornia. She said her two sons had given it to her. And the other, she said, was from her 

"That's a sort of home," I said with firm cheer. 

the seasons stop again 

She was thinking about that when a very spry oldster, who may well have been a 
hundred, judging by her wrinkledness of skin, pulled up short by the wheelchair of the 
homeless one. 

"Hello there, Elsie," she said. Then, "I can see you don't remember me. I remember 
everything about everybody, and nobody remembers me," she said, to nobody, really, 
and cheerfully enough. 

Somebody else came by, being pushed by an orderly. "I was just on my way down to 
see you," Spry said. The orderly tried to turn her burden over to the spry wrinkled one 
who was on her own two feet. 

"Oh, no!" she said. "I can get about myself, but I don't push anybody!" 

you will call me home 

HH hen I got my poet out of the hairdresser's (her name is Vida Townsend), she 
said that she wrote all fifteen of her poems in a two-three year period, (her daughter told 
me only after she became blind) but that she hasn't written any for about two years. 


"I'd like to write one more," she said, 

i will come. 

"about waiting.' 




JBSbk Wm 

lost called you 

a bitter woman, 
: having no time 

,o understand 
v;':: your bitterness. 

■Worn told me that 
Syour husband slept with 
:0 ten years 
o Banehind your back. 

at dinner, did he call you 


this year, i've learned 
-of the Goddess Nemesis. 

She is more than justice 

and is not blind. 

perhaps She took 
your husband's legs 
and cut them off 
at the base 

- forwhathehaddone 
lo you 

' 'or maybe he just festered 
in his own 


relatives called him 



and portioned out 
the pity. 

- Ntai told me that 
wour times 

■, JBUshut the doors 
of your kitchen 


w hen your husband stood 
S| x foot live 

an <l left the house. 

" !, "u") our daughters 
•" w aystound viri 

■ ' ^etween the years 

- «Rl«een and nineteen 
iwnds apiece 

""''om your majestic 

fcT^u-ng and tiny 

ami marie palmtsciano is completing an ma in polit- 
ical theory at boston college, where she studied exten- 
sively with mary daly. she has written 
two manuscripts of poetry and lives in 
providence, rhode island. 


in the wheelchair 
up all the ramps 
in the house, 

the frown that hovered 
^^ver your eyebrows 

like a baby eagle 
ready to test 
the prohibited 

salty waters. 

r ou out- 
Tony and two sons. 

and there was always the scar 

between you 

and your daughter Anna. 

She put her husband first, 
you said 

and you carried 
r our grief 

like an old 
^^ag of groceries 

into the hospital. 

""•^IdPhen i went 
to see you 

you had 

the white sheets pulled up 
across your face 

like a child 
afraid of monster 

►r the boogie-man. 

and there was still the scar 
between you and your daughter 

@ look back upon 
your bitter end. 

and at this cold stone 

through the hungry grass 

M hear your Proud, unwavering 
alto voice 

the Goddess- 

"be good to your 

H whisper 
over your bones 

i always will." 




sharon olds is a poet living in newyork city. 

The last thing, in the hospital, 

was leaving my father's wife alone 

in the room with him. The death was done, 

small frail last breath 

appeared from his mouth like the magician's blossom, 

and she'd spoken, fierce as an orator, from the 

i — oot of his bed. I had left him a moment and 
stood in the corner, pressed my forehead 
into the shut door of the right angle, 
the minister had come, purple satin 
stamens of his stole decurved around him. 
The flat moon of the stethoscope had been 
slid back into the intern's pocket, the 
two girls had sat on either 
side of their father, each rubbed and 

l-Ossed a long shapely arm, the 
left arm and the right, there was one for each. 
And the one on the bed lay, pale-yellow and 
gaunt, loved as he'd been loved in life 
and now not feared. Then we all left, 
priest, doctor, nurses, daughters, 
all but his wife, the door closed 
and now was the last moment. We stood in the 
hall and waited, guarding the entrance, 
silent, as if God were in there 
making a world or unmaking it. It was the 
center, the end and the beginning, five minutes so 
sealed I never thought till this morning 
"V^V^hat did she do. Did she lie on him I 
think not, so breakable, all 
ribs and skull. Did she kneel and pray, 
holding his big pinkish head going 
silvery now, or did she take the sheet and 
<m^ently pull it down so she could 
look at him, a last time, 
kiss his nipples, navel, dead 
warm penis. The man himself 
was in heaven, safe, this was the flesh 
his soul had sloughed. It lay between them 
like a child of their love. She drew the fine 
sheet up to his chin, light 
cover you'd lay over a sleeping newborn, 
eyes shut, mouth open 
on a summer night, she opened the door 
and walked out, it was over, her wet 
face shone, I had never seen her so calm. 

■Ka^Ok-v CH^>I<rJ; 





claudia a tine chase lives in the white mountains of 
northern new hampshire with her husband and 
three-year-old daughter elena. 

you came right next to my pain 
the small death a woman survives 
whenever a new life 
screams into motion 

I didn't need to examine you carefully 

:would have time to do that later 

was so sure of your wholeness I did not even 
count your toes 

T^8/"e leave that to fathers: the obvious additions 

and subtractions, the material calculations 

and the calculated decisions of how to hold 

this new thing 

but why is she so blue? 

your father captured you all blue and warm 
on my belly 

and my frightened mask he captured that too 
with the camera 

3r^u were not at all like a fish 
under the intoxicating buzz of the lights 
straining powerfully against the thin air 
breathing in the chemicals of life 

you were not a fish at all 
but a hurricane 
you were the wind 

% % annette savitski is an artist living in nortbampton, 
I mass, she works primarily in drawing, collage and 
mixed media. 


So many of us now weUt\ ,*.„..,.. 
ties remember the dismd ta-rf, ' 
often unsafe illegal ahw ( ,n''? and 
our friends were lucky enough to L"tf 
to arrange and pay for back X „ 
other options existed ,-.%,*./ „ " '" 
pregnancy and an unwanted </,•/,/ 
nine-month term as «„ , thll h'2, ? 
adoptive parents. We < /.„v ,/,,, iU ' w 
of infection, malpractn,-. /v/,.,„ 7 ',w 
extortion, secrecy, and / H ^h!.. da«i 
rather than face twenty years ofl on l 
responsibility in a society that treats I 
children as private pnp.-rtv and fe 
mothers as independent si ihcor.tnia^ 
creating an excess demand f<„ „ 
sources. Women under capitalism will 
continue to endure the tru'unun.fa^ 
tion, whether legalized or outlawed, be- 
cause no birth control but abstinence is 
completely safe and effective, because 
sexual desire is a human trait, because 
conception is an accident but mother- 
hood is a commitment, because singe' 
parent in effect means single mother and 


susan spencer crowe is an 

artist who works in steel, and 

occasionally creates prints. 








> {j ■■ 

h I jVas' "about, twelve years old when -my mother and 
;;fathef, dressed me >p jn a family heirloom and sent-] 
;.me of'f to m]f first co-ed dance, r was unprepared :: 

;, socially. Awkward! _deci 
- then. 

■ During my first sexua$i 

I '£' , * * I. i , S3 
fiby my Iover f : Only af 4 "* 

• b £ ." ! 5. >~ * 
s. 1. '• -. • 

fmisca,rriage ; did I 

K H t' " 'r ' 

■ activities.; l-l 

i i " ' t ; 

' a 'sense of guf 

'' l~" t 

Taking) control 

touch with 

,f-or me 


rid one 



, i e mothers are generally poor, be- 
'■„ we will not endure a twenty-year 

be abk 
tor for 

' death 
vats its \ 
wd its 
for re- 
»h will 
vara is 


e single \ 
her and 

cause we 

mice imposed upon us by instil ution- 
*!Ld hatred of our power- to conceive. 
An artist and an organizer, not a 
-^Tsabra Moore has been through 
S "sides of the abortion experience— 
■%L as a desperate, pregnant young 
J Lan working in Africa in the sixties, 
"lm as a counselor in New York in the 
arh seventies. We recorded a long con- 
ation about the latter, which I have 
reorganized considerably and edited, 
'yjjjdalways it is Sabra who speaks. A.L. 

Worn 1970-1972 I worked as a coun- 
selor-doctor's assistant at Women's Serv- 
ices, the firs! legal abortion clinic in New 
\brkCity. Most of us counse/ois, including 
wise//,' bad experienced illegal aboi li< v is. 
At the clinic I was an activist in bringing 

in Local 1199, Hospital and Drug Work- 
ers' Union, to insure patient rights and 
worker control. Later, I was delegate for 
the union. I had heard about the job 
through fellow artists in W.A.R. (Women 
Artists in Revolution). I took it as part-time 
work, but it became a full-time emotional 
and political commitment. 

Recently I found my stack of organiz- 
ing papers from the period when we work- 
ers at Women's Services were forming a 
union. The tone of clarity and combat 
contrasts with the ambiguity and painf ill- 
ness of parts of this conversation with Avis 
Lang. I think both "voices" are accurate 
descriptions of the experience. 

I have had difficulty re-reading this 
conversation. The clinic returns as a 
dream returns, with the unresolved feel- 
ings dominant. It was a physical experi- 
ence. I assisted at over 1,000 abortions. 
Abortion itself is ambiguous. It is both 
destructive and constructive action. Wom- 
en helped bring about the Roe vs. Wade 
decision by breaking the taboo of silence. 
Eighteen years have passed. New babies, 
our actual children from that period, are 

now facing decisions about birth, abor- 
tion, sexuality. 

Abortion is one of those experiences 
cloaked in folk belief. It is common; ev- 
eiyone does it or knows someone who has. 
It was always common. It is also consid- 
ered selfish. Look at Mary Beth Whitehead, 
the opposite experience. Her tale can be 
read this way: a "bad" girl, because she 
got pregnant by a married man. In work- 
ing class terms, a "good" girl, because even 
if she got pregnant, she did it for her fam- 
ily. She is supposed to suppress her feelings 
and live up to her contract in order to 
support her family. When she violates her 
contract, sloe becomes "bad" again. In mid- 
dle class terms, she is originally a "good" 
girl, because she is performing a service 
(giving a baby)- She becomes a "bad" girl 
when she decides her own feelings are 
more important, violating both the work- 
ing class training of "sacrifice" and "self- 
control" and the middle class belief that 
she should "want" to serve. Abortion is 
more clear-cut as a folk belief; it's simply 
"bad. "It's another one of those experiences 
that's all right if you don't talk about it, 





r.* ?. Abortion Is Not Purely A Physical 

' Problem: 

,|pmewomen become pregnant through 
failiui- of their intrauterine devices or 

•through some carelessness in taking the 

"pip. These women can genuinely blame 
their doctor, some inanimate physical or 
chemical device, or fate, for their preg- 
nancy, and generally they do. They're 
x m They may require simplv an expla- 
nation of the procedure and physical re- 
Wurance to get them through the 
■"' ' an, if there are no additional prob- 
wnswiih the man involved. 

'•, ^ ■ re P reserlt a minority. 
Yiirl"r 0me women com e horn New 

r lxfrr They may have supported the 
a " J ?" movement and feel abortion is 

m«K ?7jg ' may have been raised bv 
Umin? enc ouraged their daugh- 
alitv II ' comfort able with their sexu- 
' l*te,n T? have had children, each 
^"uUhdd birth. Their boyfriend or 

husband may agree with the abortion. 
These women need little counseling. 

They represent a tiny minority. 
21 - Most women who come to our 
clinic do not fall in these categories. Two 
weeks ago, a young woman bank teller 
from the Bronx came here after unsuc- 
cessfully trying to abort herself with an 
enema tube and a coathanger. When 
asked why, she said she had only vaguely 
"heard" abortion was legal. She works in 
the Chemical Bank around the corner. 

Many women college students assert 
they have no problems about abortion. 
When asked why they didn't use birth 
control, they may state that they would 
have felt like "sluts" planning for 

Many women feel they are killing a 
baby. They often expect to be punished 
by sterility, depression, or frigidity. They 
may ask to see the fetus, inquire about its 
sex, request it be baptised. 

Older women often feel 


A woman may have been deserted by 
her boyfriend or husband. She may not 
have told him for fear he would insist on 
her carrying the child. He may have ac- 
cused her of "killing" his "son." He may 
simply have been impatient with how 
she was feeling. 

4= Most patients who come to our 
clinic are from out of town. For these 
women, coming to New York City for an 
abortion often involves secreq' and de- 
ception. It is an illegal abortion 
to them. 

£5- Some women really wanted the 
baby and were either too poor to have a 
child or couldn't handle the social con- 
sequences of being a single parent. 
€5 _ A large number of women have ex- 
perienced either painful abortions or 
difficult deliveries and fear the procedure. 
*Z .= An equally large number are pain- 
fully embarrassed at exposing their bod- 
ies and need to discuss their shyness. 


but you 're supposed to pay a price. 

My experience at the clinic was com- 
plex because it was both "new" and 
"old." The "new" part was that all of us 
were trying NOT to pay a price. Part of 
this worked fine. First, we affirmed our 
own negative previous experiences (we 
had all paid emotional, physical, finan- 
cial prices for our illegal abortions — / 
nearly bled to death). We tried to insure 
that other women would have more hu- 
mane abortions. That part succeeded, 
though in our need to change the qual- 
ity of the expe>ie?2ce for others, I think 
we took on too much. We were all hurt 
by having to handle fetal tissue and de- 
nied to our patients that the fetuses were 
"anything. " I think this was a mistake 
emotionally and tactically. The Right-To- 
Life activists have magnified those images, 
literally. A billboard of a 12-week old fetus 
is an actual image, but a distortion. Wom- 
en should know a fetus looks like that, 
but in a minute scale. It's life, but un- 
formed life. 

The "old" part was that ive were work- 
ing with the medical establishment. We 
tried to handle this inevitable clash of val- 
ues by organizing a union. I still agree 
with that tactic. We succeeded for about 
two years. 

The clinic was a kind of microcosm. 
The first director set up a model of para- 
professionals assisting at the abortion as 
a way to cut the costs of the procedure 
and make a more humane clinical en- 
vironment. He was not prepared, how- 
ever, to relinquish control. He hired 
doctors who had all been trained by the 
medical schools. They were uncomfort- 
able with the patients and with us para- 
professionals. The)> had their own com- 
plex reactions to performing abortions 
which the)> took out on the patients. We 
counselors were in the middle. We need- 
ed the doctors for the abortion proce- 
dure, but also needed to protect the 
patients from the doctors' manners, at- 
titudes and, sometimes, lack of skill. 

It was too much a mirror of the cul- 
ture as a whole, with men in control of 
abortion and women tr)>ing to get con- 
trol through understanding, giving, self 
destruction and action. — S.M. 

avis lang is a member of the heresies mother collec- 
tive, a freelance writer and editor, and co-coordina- 
tor of the patient rights legal action fund. 

sabra moore is a texas-born artist and activist 
living in netv-york city. 



omen's Services was set up in 
1970, as soon as the abortion law in New 
York had changed. In the very beginning 
it was in the Seventies on Lexington Ave- 
nue, then it moved to East 62nd Street. 
The clinic was sponsored by the Clergy 
Consultation Service of Jud'son Memo- 
rial Church; it was set up by a group of 
people who had been abortion-rights ac- 
tivists. They were good people but, as we 
saw in our union struggle with them, 
classic liberals in their political outlook. 
Dr. Hale Harvey was the first director. 
He'd been an illegal abortionist in Loui- 
siana. We later heard that he was perhaps 
only a Doctor of Philosophy. Dr. Harvey 
wanted to hire paraprofessionals to 
work with the doctors they had already 
hired (you could say he himself was a 
sort of paraprofessional!). Then Dr. 
Bernard Nathanson came on (he's the 
one who subsequently wrote Aborting 
America). It was a part-time job, but he 
made a lot of money. As the director, he 
didn't perform any abortions. He later 
said he realized he'd presided over 
60,000 deaths and it had never occurred 
to him that the fetus was, in fact, life. How 
could you be so morally opaque? What 
did he think it was? No woman, neither 
the patients nor ourselves, was confused 
about that. We all knew it was life. But 
everyone felt that you had to have a 
choice to decide if you could raise the 

Nathanson's rebirth as a conservative 
happened within five years after the 
clinic's first demise. His earliest anti- 
abortion articles came out in The New 
York Times and the New England four- 
nal of Medicine in the late 70s. In them 
he said he thought the abortion move- 
ment was polarized between the right- 
wing militants and the hysterical 
feminists. I realized he meant us. Nathan- 
son had actually been an advocate for 
abortion before it was legal. When he got 


hired at the clinic he came in like a lib 
eral, but he was a liberal like Bork is a lib. 
eral— a very authoritarian guv. He always' 
had that manner of being an important 
high-paid gynecologist. The other doc- 
tors didn't like him. He was like a bad h- 
ther, basically. Our counselors' meetings 
with the administration would always be 
awful. We would end up making de- 
mands and feeling upset and saving 
things, and he was just completely im- 
passive. It never occurred to him that 
there were problems at all, that people 
had feelings, that the doctors were being 
sadistic, that the counselors shouldn't be 
having to strain the fetuses. He was ex- 
tremely unresponsive, and he hated that 
we organized a union. Evidently a lot of 
the administrators didn't like him 






: ;:iiia< 





■' urt 


: ?pre 















; the 


: tor 












-j-l ie doctors 

had all been trained the 





tic* .; 

jple ' 

-ing : 

't be ■; 
ex- i 
)tof ; 

•rmd'ird medical school way. The level 
f emotional stupidity that I felt from a 
lot of these guys was amazing. They 
didn't know how to behave toward peo- 
, These guys were making a lot of 
money. In the early days, there was one 
who flew in from Louisville for the two 
davs he worked at the clinic. This was 
supposed to be a not-for-profit clinic, but 
at the beginning, the doctors were mak- 
ing $75 a patient. These guys were 
Moonlighting, and some of them were 
: making a thousand dollars in their eight- 
hour shift for their second job of the day! 
Literally, some of the doctors were rac- 
;;<>!£' from room to room. Finally, because 
of us counselors insisting on it, they put 
the doctors on a salary. So then they 
made about $500 for the eight-hour shift, 
; |nd the clinic wanted us to take a pay cut 
»from our $50-a-day jobs in solidarity with 
the doctors. We did everything except 
■the actual procedure, and they accused 
'fid of being mercenaries because we 
wouldn't take a pay cut. 

There were a few good doctors, in- 
cluding one woman who was radical and 
very nice, but a lot of them were really 
very hard to deal with. One doctor came 
in one night when I had a 16-year-old pa- 
tient who was nervous about the specu- 
lum, and he said to her that this wasn't 
^arw bigger than what had gotten her 
^pregnant. We got him fired. Another 
knight, I had an American Indian patient, 
and you always are supposed to say, 
"Doctor Blah-blah, this is Maty Sue, she's 
yfrom blah-blah." So I said, "This is Mary 
Sue Whatever, and she's from X tribe," 
and he said, "How." I'm not kidding. You 
know, you're fine, the patient's fine, and 
. you're dealing with idiots who are not 
used to having to talk to patients as peo- 
ple. One doctor used to put his foot up 
ifpn the table when he did the examina- 
tion. Another doctor would loudly count 
the fetal parts, so you would go over and 
try to talk over him or shut him up. All 
the counselors began to feel that we 
stood between the patient and the doc- 
• t0r . that in addition to helping the 
woman through a difficult part of her 
life helping her get an abortion and then 
go back to her town and get birth con- 
trol, we were having to protect her from 


Person who in fact was there to give 

h « the abortion. So it was reallv hard. 

Before Dr. Harvev left, he made us a 

?' 8 Ch ristmas party and he gave us all 

"arns. There was this big table of food, 

-i° he ha d put the instruments of the 

ip tl0n out as serving pieces. He had 

speculum in the potato salad, and the 

pinchers that everyone was upset about 
because they were really painful and we 
were always having to say to the patient, 
"You're going to feel a pinch" — he had 
them in the olive jar. It was obscene. We 
took the instruments out and washed 
them off. So there was a pornographic 
aspect to some of these men. At a certain 
point, some of the doctors got to brag- 
ging about aborting a bigger fetus. It was 
like a competition between the doctors 
in a really perverse way. 

JHkctually, a lot of the doctors were 
feeling upset the way we were feeling 
upset. It was very hard to be doing this, 
but they had no mechanism for handling 
their feelings. One doctor had a dream 
in which there were fetuses stretched in 

a line from San Francisco to New York. A 
lot of the doctors were experiencing a 
certain kind of guilt. Another doctor 
ended up opening up a sex therapy 
clinic; he believed that an abortion 
should be painful for the woman to expi- 
ate guilt, and he actually gave a very pain- 
ful abortion. We tried to get Dr. 
Nathanson to deal with these problems, 
and he wouldn't even listen. We did 
manage to get a few doctors fired, but we 
also wanted there to be therapy sessions 
for them so that they could talk about 
their feelings and not have to do these bi- 
zarre things. But no, it never happened. 
So we became very confrontational with 
the doctors. 

I got the job because I had met some 
artists who were part of the Artworkers 
Coalition, and someone said, "Oh, 
they're looking for counselors at this 
abortion clinic," so we just went. It 
wasn't like I thought about it; I just went 
to the interview. At the time they were 
looking for women who had had abor- 
tions, and in the very beginning they 
were also looking for women involved 
in the feminist movement. This all 

changed, of course, but that's how it 
started out. So I got the job, and realized 
afterwards that I actually very much 
wanted to do it. I had been very secretive 
about my own abortion and never 
dreamed I would use it as a job 

d^Lt the beginning, none of the peo- 

,ple who worked at the clinic were 

nurses, and we were all young. I was in 

my late twenties. There were two other 


artists, one woman had been a showgirl 
and had dropped out of the Weather- 
men, and there were a lot of women who 
had political experience in the women's 

The counselors did everything. We 
had a five-patient daily load. We spent 
about an hour and a half with each per- 
son; you met the woman, you talked to 
her about how she had gotten pregnant, 
her problems, and you counseled her 
about birth control. The experiences 
with the patients remained wonderful 
throughout. We met people from all over 
the country, all kinds of women. Most of 
the time they hadn't told anybody or 
they'd told maybe one person. We had all 
been through it, and I think we all felt a 
great need to give support in a situation 
in which we hadn't had support. Also, we 
were in positions of authority, and so 
many of these people were very heart- 
ened to learn that, yes, we had had abor- 
tions ourselves. 

First we explained the abortion proce- 
dure to the woman, because she would 
be awake. It was the vacuum method, so 
she received a local anesthetic. We 
helped her get in the room, we took her 
blood pressure and her temperature, 
and we presented all the facts to the doc- 
tor. Then we went through the abortion 
with her, so in fact we assisted the doctor 
at the actual procedure. 

After we had witnessed so many abor- 
tions, we knew exactly which doctors 
were good and which weren't. So then 
we had this situation where we had to 
describe the procedure differently to the 
different patients, depending on who 
was working that night. There would be 
three doctors on. When your patient was 
ready, you would go out in the corridor 
and put your number up, and whenever 
a doctor was ready for another patient, 
he would put his number up on a board. 
If certain doctors would be on duty, you 
would just hang back and keep check- 
ing — everybody did it — waiting for the 
good doctor to put his number up, and 
then we would all rush out trying to get 
him. It was really hard when you knew 
that some doctors were not going to do a 
great job, and it put us all in a terrible 

If a patient was too far along in her 
pregnancy, she would have to go to a 
hospital for a different procedure. A 
number of people were taking patients 
home, getting them a room in Bellevue, 
giving a fake address. Everyone was 
overdoing it, because we had the feeling 
that this was the woman's only chance. 
We all had been through illegal abor- 
tions, so everybody felt that they would 


do anything to help the patient. But al- 
most none of us worked full-time. I don't 
think you could have, actually; the cumu- 
lative effect of having to deal with the 
clean-up of the abortion was very hard 
for all of us, and the other thing that be- 
came hard was dealing with the doctors. 
People also started getting a little 
flipped out and began having trouble 
about their own birth control. One of 
the counselors later had two abortions; 
she wasn't using birth control. Another 
nurse who was a counselor with us had a 
theory that if you made love a lot, you 
lowered the sperm count. So that's what 
she and her boyfriend did, and of course 
she got pregnant. I had an IUD put in 
during this period because I just didn't 
want to think about birth control, de- 
spite the fact that I would see patients 
with the Dalkon shield. I didn't get the 
Dalkon shield, though I did later have 
trouble with my own IUD. Everyone 
started having trouble after a while, cu- 
mulatively, and you would do emotional 
things to kind of block out your 

'We later felt that it would have 
been better for the workers if we'd had a 
woman's clinic with more of a balance — 
where you were delivering babies, you 
were doing abortions, you were caring 
f or old women. I think it remained good 
for the patients, though. We still had 
those wonderful moments and conver- 
sations and relief and crying. 

I left the clinic in 1972, and it c i, K . . 
down almost a year later. I couldn't I 
with it anymore. It was just too mud r 
me, really. I quit about eight months -if, 
we got the union. I was a delate' ,i 
they were upset when I quit, hut i Z 
couldn t do it anymore. I just needed, 
paint. I took unemployment f 0r s 
months, and then when my ( Tic ') 
Georgia quit, we started doj n „ 
housepainting. *> 

After I had left, some right-to-life Buv 
came to the clinic. By then we l n <j \ 
private guard, because violence against 
abortion clinics had already begun This 
guy evidently burst through the waiting 
room doors and ran into the patient re- 
covery room, wanting to baptize the f e . 
tuses. But one counselor, who now has 
her own karate school, formed a phalanx 
of counselors with herself in the lead 
(they had called the police, who weren't 
coming) to keep this guy from getting in. 
They succeeded. 

You have to remember thai the people 
who worked there were very political at 
the time. A few counselors quit in t| 1L > 
very beginning because they couldn't 
deal with the procedure, but then those 
who stayed, stayed, because the longer 
you stayed, the more you felt like you 
couldn't leave everybody. Though we'd 
started out fairly idealistically trusting 
the administration, we quickly found 
that the situation was very problematic, 
and when we decided what action we 

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ik The 





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i" 1 1 

i for 
■d lo 

ad a 

•"ing ' 

icfe. ; 



;oplc ; 
ica! at 
n ilie 

j \ou 
)n we 

,, re g ing to take— that we would or- 
Vmize a union— e\'eryone felt s< >rt of ob- 
fnted to each other to stay throughout 

;. t he whole thing. 

"Jphe clinic was small, always; pro- 
bablv the whole place was a hundred 

People, including the nurses. There may 

■•lave been fifty of us in the beginning. We 
were all women except for the doctors, 

%o were all men except one, and of 
course the men controlled the abortion 
Procedure. Most counselors were part- 

-Hme workers. I don't think anyone 
worked five days; most of us worked 
three. You had to work at least two. It 

: wasn't huge, but we worked two shifts. 
There was the eight-to-four shift, and 

Sen 1 worked four to midnight. It went 

"sixteen hours; there were two sets of 
doctors. The shift 1 worked, the doctors 
would have worked all day, and then they 

'%rne in and moonlighted. They were 

Spiking a salary of $350-$500, which was 
a lot of money for one night's work. I 
worked eight hours three days a week, 
and then we had all those meetings on 
top of it. It was my whole life for about 
two years. 

' ' Deciding to form a union and afhliate 
with Local 1199 didn't seem like a radical 
choice at the time. We had considered all 
kinds of other options. 1199 had never 
organized an abortion clinic — obvi- 

■ ously, no one had done it. We were an 
odd crew, various ilks, but we were all 
doing this job. It took us about six 
months to organize. 

Anyway, as soon as we started, the 
management got very crazy. They had al- 
ready accused us of being mercenary. 
•Many people atjudson Memorial Church 
thought the only problem with abortion 
was that it had been illegal, and now that 
. it was legalized, they could speed up the 

■ pace and we didn't have to spend so long 
counseling and could do it more effi- 

- ciently, What we felt was that they basi- 
cally wanted to turn it into a mill. 

' Just at the moment when we finally 
. had most of the group reach' for the elec- 
■ ''On, the clinic started hiring profes- 
sional nurses. We later learned that the 
^ministration had wanted to hire peo- 

- Pie who were hostile to women's libera- 
- - ™-They had also wanted to create a 

^dge between us by saving we were 

«« Professionals and'thev were profes- 

. '°™is. But of course, we trained all 

" imv T ple and we a " did cxactlv the 
. gJ :' ob - Th e National Labor Relations 

lo'ha aid itwas a " ainst lheir rules 

^nals e in P H° feSSi0nals and non P'' ofes - 

*W\ ' I Same voUn 8 category. So 

Xe had the election, the nonpro- 

fessionals won the union and the profes- 
sionals were not in it. Of course, when 
we negotiated our contract, they got ev- 
erything we got, and after they had 
worked for a while, a lot of them ended 
up agreeing with us. 

I helped negotiate the contract. We 
didn't ask for pay raises, because at that 
time $50 a day was a very good salary. But 
we fixed a five-patient limit per coun- 
selor per shift, and we wrote into the job 

description what we actually did — that 
there had to be counseling, birth control 
information, the whole thing. The ad- 
ministration was very upset about it, and 
about a year after I quit the clinic, it evi- 
dently shut down and opened again as a 
runaway shop with society women vol- 
unteers. Now the clinic is gone entirely, 
but we did succeed in organizing it dur- 
ing an important part of its existence. 

It's a very simple procedure. It lasts 
about five minutes. There's a painful part 
in the beginning when the doctor grabs 
the cervix with these little pinchers that 
are like ice pinchers, and it hurts, be- 
cause there's no anesthetic at this stage. 
He — and I say "he" advisedly — he has to 
hold the cervix because your uterus sort 
of floats inside your body cavity, and you 
have to be able to control the uterus 
when you're doing the dilation. Then he 
applies the anesthetic to the cervix with 
an injection; Lidocaine is what we were 
using at the time. This one doctor — who 
I still go to and who was the only really 
humane one there — developed a 
method of giving a painless abortion. He 
would apply the anesthetic in short jabs 
counter-clockwise, and he would wait 
about a minute until the cervix was really 
numb. You have very few nerves in your 
cervix; it's like a little pink nose. He said 

it took him about a year to figure out how 
to do it really well. No one else I worked 
with got this down perfectly, so people 
always felt varying degrees of pain. 

Then they used a series of dilators. 
The dilators are like pencils; they're 
stainless steel, they're like slightly 
curved long S's and they're made in grad- 
uated sizes. The doctor inserts them into 
the opening of your cervix; it's what 
opens your cervix up. It's like pushing it 
open, then more and more and more. 
Sometimes they do it too quickly, and 
they can perforate the wall of the uterus. 
When I first saw the abortion, I almost 
fainted at the dilators. It was the only 
time I had trouble, but there was some- 
thing too graphic about some of the in- 
struments that I really found upsetting in 
the beginning. Usually if there's going to 
be a problem in an abortion, it happens 
when they dilate you. They're supposed 


to do this very gradually, as your cervix 
sort of opens up. I assisted once for a pa- 
tient who was perforated; she was okay 
later, but it was a horrible experience 
and I had to go to the emergency room 
with her. 

After the dilation, they introduce a suc- 
tion tube, which is like a dilator with an 
opening, with which the doctor goes 
around the wall of the uterus. Then at the 
end, they introduce an instrument that's 
a little curved wire. It's a scraper. This is 
the most important part, because he 
must scrape the whole uterus, and you 
can actually hear if it's clean. The patient 
can't hear it, but if you've heard it a lot (I 
probably assisted at a thousand abor- 
tions), you can recognize it. That's what 
went wrong for me. You have to remove 
all the tissue, because that's where the 
placenta attaches to the uterus, and if it's 
not completely removed, you continue 
to bleed into your uterus, and that's 
when people hemorrhage. 

Afterwards we would actually have to 
examine the fetal parts to make sure they 
were all there. It was important to do it, 
and after we began to understand all the 
stages of the abortion, we were all very 
careful to really look, but it was hard for 
us. They are beautiful, the fetuses, and 
they do look like babies. At six weeks 
they have the little tails, and at twelve 
weeks it's a perfectly formed person. It's 
transparent, it's pink, it obviously looks 
fetal, but it has fingernails. They're tiny, 
and even though all of us did feel upset at 
seeing them, there is an enormous dif- 
ference between this tiny little fetus and 
a whole baby. Six weeks is about an inch 
and a quarter; twelve weeks is about two 
inches. Then they get progressively big- 
ger. I assisted at an abortion of one 
woman who was sixteen weeks preg- 
nant — the doctor had obviously made a 
serious mistake. 

The six-week fetuses usually come out 
all together in one piece. Later, you 
would have to see tiny miniature parts of 
a human body It's hard to talk about it. 
All of us felt it, we all talked about it, we 
all cried a lot. There was a lot of conver- 
sation and feelings and everything 
among all the women who worked 
there, but we also wanted to shield the 
patients. We had all had abortions, yet we 
didn't want our patients to know what it 
looked like. You see everything. They are 
beautiful, but they are also obvi- 
ously fetal. 

Another part of it that was hard was 
that if a patient was too far along, you'd 
have to refer her. That was all right, ex- 
cept it meant more money, and in those 


early days, a lot of the women had barely 
scraped up the airfare. Most of the time 
they had borrowed money from people, 
and a referral meant a lot more money. 
The abortion clinic was about $200; it 
was cheap, comparatively speaking, but 
not nothing. An illegal abortion was a lot 
more expensive — you said yours had 
cost $400 in the early '60s. 

The later abortions are really hard. If 
you're fourteen weeks, you should wait. 
That's when I had mine, and I hemor- 
rhaged. You have to wait until sixteen 
weeks for a salting-out; that's what the sa- 

line abortions are. They inject a S1 i 
tion into your uterus that basicallS' 
the fetus, and you deliver it dead ii' 
ally hard to go through, and vou haw^' 
stay a few days in the hospital. ] n ti le j '° 
ginning, everyone who worked -« | 
clinic felt awful having to turn somen? 
down. I think that's part of how it h, 
pened with the 16-week abortion- rf 
one wanted to turn a patient down hyy!! 
kind of a collusion between our f ee |i n f 
of support and the doctors' crazi ne « 
about who was aborting the biggest fc. 

At the time that abortion was legalized 
in New York, it was only legal in two 
other states: Hawaii and Colorado. So 
during the two years I worked at the 
clinic, except for the very end, a lot of the 
patients were coming from out of state. 

Everyone had a good reason. Nobody 
had a foolish reason. I'm sure there is no 
such thing as a foolish reason. You see, 
all the women had considered this in a 
very serious way, but Nathanson had ob- 
viously never thought about the implica- 
tions of what he was doing until after he 
had worked at the clinic. 

The ignorance about birth control was 
really phenomenal. I had a patient who 
had been taking the pill, but vaginally. I 
had another woman who was practicing 
rhythm, but incompletely; she thought it 

was the frequency, not the date. She 
would do stuff once a month, but with no 
regard to when, so the poor thing didn't 
understand why it had happened. Then 
there were a lot of people whose birth 
control devices had failed. During this 
time we had many many, many patients 
with the Dalkon shield. 

I had about five 12-year-old patients. 
The 12-year-olds were really children. 
One patient came from Florida, a very 
sweet girl. Well, she didn't want the abor- 
tion — she really wanted the baby, she 
loved the baby. She hadn't had much re- 
lationship with the boy, who was an 
older boy, maybe 16. Her mother had 
said she wasn't big enough to have akid, : 
which of course I agreed with, but the 
girl felt it as a power thing with her 

« the 
: flap. 
": no 
It was 


;st fc. 

her that in fact she was big enough, 
d ill 'her girlfriends thought she was 


• She 
s, this 


i very 
)>, she 
is an 
r had i 
a kid, 
at the 
h her 

'enough. She had all these plans 
nut how she was going to raise it. So 
Shad a long talk, aiul I said I wasnt go- 
me to force her to 1 
Jen 1 asked to speak with her mother. 

to force her to have the abortion, but 
I asked . 
really liked her mother. She was this fat 
Lman from Florida, and she had been a 
•ire retreader. Somehow she had re- 
tre-ided more tires in an hour than any of 
■he men had, but they wouldn't give her 
'the award because it would make the 
ouvs feel bad or something. She had had 
a {{d when she was 15, and she didn't 
^ant her daughter to go through the 
same thing she had gone through. She 
really wanted her to get the abortion. Ac- 
tually, she was a very supportive person. 
It took two days. We waited and let the 
girl think, and eventually 1 was able to 
> reliher mother what I had figured out 
;4bout her saying her daughter wasn't big 
^enough to raise a baby. Well, they 
worked out their personal problem, and 
she did have the abortion. But a lot of the 
very young women really wanted the 
baby, it was like having a doll. 

I can't remember everybody, but 1 saw 
all ages, all ranges of people. As 1 men- 
tioned, I probably had a thousand pa- 
tients. The oldest was in her early fifties, 1 
would say. One of the people from the 
Weather Underground came and got an 
abortion in secret. One woman had had 
ten kids. She was in her early thirties, a 
lovely woman. I asked her how she 
managed it and she said sometimes she 
just shut the door. She had literally been 
pregnant for ten years or however long it 
would be to have all these kids, and then 
the last time it had been about two-and-a- 
half years and it had felt so good. And 
when she got pregnant again, this time 
there was an option, and that was sort of 
.wonderful. I was a clear choice. 

I also had a patient who was pregnant 

.froma"nght-to-life" senator in Utah. She 

was his secretary and he was married. 

..She hadn't told 'him. She'd lied, she'd 

come here because she felt he would 

prevent her from getting the abortion. 

'. Qf course: he was right-to-life and he 

nadn't used birth control and he was 

. inning around on his wife. 

there were all kinds of people. 1 did 
- ] ave a l Qt of teenage patients who had 
°one what I'd done, basically, which was 

sort of hope it wouldn't happen to 

em, but most people— it was the 

.^o'e range of even- imaginable person: 

[I . Who were married, people who 

eren ^married, people who had had 

people really did want to have a kid, but 
they just couldn't do it financially. That 
was the hardest part of it. There were oc- 
casionally people who didn't want to be 
very open with you, but that wasn't 

The only generalization I can make is 
that it was just everybody. It wasn't like a 
special case. It was all kinds of people in 

all kinds of possible situations, who had 
gotten pregnant and didn't want to be. It 
was just like us: we were all different 
kinds of people. The only difference 
was that they could come there and it 
was legal. 

At the very beginning when the clinic 
opened, our situation was relatively ob- 
scure. We had our internal problems 
with the doctors, but we didn't have ex- 
ternal problems. But after the 1973 Su- 
preme Court decision in Roe v. Wade, 
there started to be demonstrations 
against the clinics. 

As a parenthesis, when those judges 
said something about it being our right, I 
felt it, I felt vindicated in a way. I hadn't 
even thought their views mattered to me, 
and yet on some level there was a part of 
me that still felt bad for having had an 
abortion, even after working at this clinic 
for two years. I was sorry I had to get 
pregnant, but it happened. I behaved re- 
sponsibly, yet I felt bad. It surprised me 
that I was still so involved with patriar- 
chy. It's indicative of the generation 
we're from. 

e were working in a situation 
that wasn't great, despite the fact that this 
was supposed to be a model clinic. It was 
a depressing reality, meeting all those 
women who needed an abortion. We 
had moments of feeling that people 
weren't isolated, but, in fact, everyone 
was going back into the same situation 
that had gotten them pregnant. You also 
begin to feel, when you have to explain 
birth control to somebody, that the' op- 
tions are not great. We all were opposed 
to the pill, because if you just read the 
newspapers, you knew that you might 
get cancer. One of the possible side ef- 
fects to the pill was death. Then there 
was the diaphragm — fine, great. 

It was really depressing. We had this 
little model, and we explained the stand- 
ard options to the patients. A lot of peo- 
ple had used various good methods, they ! 

wopo holup is a sculptor, she has received numerous fellowships, awards and grants and is currently 
working on a sculpture project with the state of new jersey public building arts inclusion act. 

Sand couldn't have any more. A few 



had done everything right, and it hadn't 
worked out. On top of that, you're deal- 
ing with doctors who are repre- 
sentative—and I'm sure not bad 
representatives— of the medical estab- 
lishment, and you're having to fight all 
the time. It was very hard for everybody 
after a time, because you felt that you 
were almost part of the problem, that 
there was this wave of things that were 
not solved, and that the whole situation 
was really pretty bad. I think that's what 
accounted for people getting burned 
out. At a certain point, too, even after we 
got the union and we got contracts, the 
administration still harassed us. I got 
called in, and a number of people got 
monitored, and they were encouraging 
people to quit. 

There was another side to what we 
were doing, you see. It was 1970 and the 
antiwar movement was going on at the 
same time; it was sort of a fringe aspect of 
the clinic. So the clinic had another aura, 
and I think that's partly why Nathanson 
hated us so much. We represented a dif- 
ferent cultural strain. We had all come 
from different sides of being involved 
politically on some level in the antiwar 
movement, the women's movement, the 
art movement. We all had long hair, you 
know, and a lot of people had been at- 
tracted to this job because it was a politi- 
cal job, a feminist job. Later, of course, 
people came in who were nurses and 
who had none of that background. 

B! M B he other day, you were talking 
about abortion and its legalization in 
sort of a generational sense, as a coming 
of age for all of us, and this was — it still 
is — the big issue. It's a basic issue for any 
woman's life, whether you're going to 
have a kid or you're not going to have a 
kid. I had an aunt who had a baby on her 
own, and the baby died. She was living 
down in the country on the farm, and she 
had to leave the country and come to live 
with us because she was so ostracized. 
Her life was ruined by this experience. I 
never quite knew the whole story till I 
grew up, but I always had intimations of 
it. I loved her. She was the dangerous ex- 
ample. So there was all this background 
when I was growing up that a possible 
result of sex might be social ostraciza- 
tion and death. My mother told me about 


some girlfriend of hers who tried to kill 
herself because she was pregnant. 

HBSecause I went to college, I knew 
that there was birth control. A lot of my 
•patients knew, but it wasn't easy to go to 
an authority, to a doctor — I guess I was 
afraid of being turned down or was 
afraid of what would happen. I actually 
didn't know how to go. And when I left 
Texas and joined the Peace Corps in 
1964, people kept saying in the Peace 
Corps training that they would teach us 
about birth control, which was a big is- 
sue, but then they never did. I was this 
mixture of a very sophisticated and a 
very unsophisticated person. I had read 
D.H. Lawrence, so I believed intellectu- 
ally that it was fine, that I was willing to 
do it, but of course I didn't know how to 
get birth control information. I actually 
tried to look in the Bible— I believed 
there would be some information — the 
old "he knew her and she knew him," or 
something. I thought they might say 
when was the right time. I thought the 
timing might be in there. I didn't want to 
ask anybody, particularly the girls I had 
met in the Peace Corps who were from 
New York and who really knew a lot, be- 
cause I didn't want to appear too stupid. 
It is a coming of age. It's about howyou 
deal with authority and how you handle 
your own body. When I got pregnant, I 
couldn't find out for sure for a long time. 
My biology teacher at the University of 
Texas had shown us a film of an egg di- 
viding, and all I could think of was this 
egg relentlessly dividing without my be- 
ing able to think about it. I wanted it to 
just wait a minute, so I could think about 
it, and I knew it was just dividing and di- 
viding like that. It was a horrible image of 
feeling really out of control of your body. 
In a way, it's like the first realization that a 
lot of things are out of your control. 

facing page: 

katberyn sins is a sculptor whose works in ■ 

media focus on the urban experience. 

lousee, Igrewupinafa milv 
where my father was a union man Hen 
ganized for the railroad. But at a certain 
point my father ran for head of the union 
in Texas and he lost to a guy he consid 
ered a crook and who, in fact was a* 
crook. After that, he was in the union but 
he was never active. This happened 
when I was about ten or eleven, but I re 
member that feeling of disappointment- 
It was very exciting and heroic when he 
was organizing, but he sort of gave up " 
you know. And when I went to college" 
we tried to organize our dormitory. [- 
can't remember what the incident was 
now; it was something about electing' 
our own floor officers— certain deci- 
sions about self-determination, really, '{"-, 
helped to organize the protest move- 
ment. We refused to eat our desserts. It 
was very Victorian. I wrote my father a 
letter about it, and in my heart, I thought 
he would be very proud of me for having'-; 
done this. But he wrote back and said,-. 
"I'm going to tell you how the cow ate ' 
the cabbage," which is a Texas way of say- 
ing, "I'm going to tell it to you like it is," 
which is that you can't win. 

I guess this is part of being out of con- 
trol. I was very bright, and this feeling 
didn't touch me for a few years. I went off ■ ' 
and joined the Peace Corps, and in/ 
parents approved of it because I was 2V- 
and the Democrats were in power and ft -> 
was right and I could do it. That's h 
left Texas. My father got killed a year 
later, and I got pregnant a few montl 
ter that. But it was all part of comir 
age. It's when you suddenly come 
against that part of life you can't con 
and the feeling I had about not being 
able to control my body was part of 
the whole feeling that things happens 
and you can't solve them and you can t ,. 
stop them. 

-HLnd I guess the feeling of emp 
erment and also of freak-out at the clinic 
was feeling that we were trying i ■ loii 
trol it. In fact, we were controlling it, but v 
only a part of it, because we weren't con- ; - - 
trolling the doctors, we weren't control; , 
ling its status, we weren't contrc 
birth control situation, we wer n i «| n " 
trolling any of these things. In t 
think I did get more control, bu ' 
price, like you do for everything 


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/ow «<w«j « a writer, performer and filmmaker 
who was born and bred in north Carolina. 

i owyou know, Annielee, don't 
you, she's not goin' be like she was." 

The countryside outside the close au- 
tomobile shimmered in the dense heat, 
unusual for this part of the world and 
season. The little girl, more rightly 
'young lady' tried not to shift and wriggle 
as. she listened to the old woman press- 
ing into her with that voice. 

"She's apt to have changed a consider- 
able amount, and I want you to promise 
me you'll say nothing, not one word 
about that business the other day No 
need to get her worked up." 

IIil old woman subdued a grunt of 

disgust .ind then added in a tight whis- 

» id there's no use denyin' it. I 

heard you sneakin' outside the door 

listening " 

'Mm grandma, he's goin' try to sue us, I 
heard liiin!" 

The girl hadn't meant for anything to 
come out, just her mind racing along in 
response. But, as had been happening 
lately, the words just slipped from their 
moorings before she could stop them. 

"Don't 'But grandma' me, Annielee! 
Ease-droppin's a trashy thing and I won't 
have it. We'll deal with that problem in 
good time, you watch." She tried to stifle 
a thin smile. "There's some things even 

brains don't help you with th, , 
Almighty." h ' thank ihe; 

With that pronouncement the . 
woman settled into her weight -mi c! 
tended to look out thf 3^ 
at the scenery whizzing by on the r , 
stark road. usl K 

Off in the near distance, a pack of r 
farmers tramped under a load of Df T' 
toes, a scraggly line of human bod ^ 
nearly bent double making a sl ow £ 
persistent, bee-line for a mangly pi c 'k Z 
a hundred yards away. Neither \Z 
woman nor the little girl gave them a ser 
ond thought. The driver, one Harold I 
Wannaker, Jr., didn't accord them much 
attention either, other than to snort deri 
sively or as derisively as possible under 
present circumstances. Harold J., second 
son, had been forced to forego a per- 
fectly lucrative dry-cleaning venture be- 
cause of a run-in over in Cherokee last 
month, where words and weapons had 
crossed paths. Since that unfortunate in- 
cident, he had been remanded into the 
kindly custody of his sister Merle and 
brother-in-law Ralph, and now made his 
livelihood taxiing lowly souls of the twin 
countries who owned no automobiles of 
their own. Harold tried hard not to like 
the work, mostly on account of its lack of 
"glamour," as he liked to call it. But deep 




. tl' 


ann marie rousseau is a photographer 
who lives in newyork city. 












T- ' 

aown, it wasn't half bad. At least he got to 
out of town once in a while, and 
labile Ralph's rigs weren't Cadillacs, they 
didn't run too shabby if you applied a lit- 
tle footpressure to them. 
".. ^ ^ nmin' on into 1 Iicksville," 
'.Harold shouted into the rear seat, where 
the woman and the girl were still sitting 
in comparative silence. 
: . ":■■'.. -The girl had originally wanted to sit up 
: jront with Harold, seeing as she didn't 
have too many opportunities to ride in 
: an automobile. At least not for this far a 


%. "Thank you kindly Mr Wannaker, the 
? woman said. She leaned heavily to the 
• left, squishing the girl, in order to catch a 
■■'glimpse of the driver in the rear view. "I 
■; swear he's starin' at us," she had confided 
as they set out. 
*ft' "He ain't interested in us, grandma," 
•the girl assured her. "He and Johnny 
^Duncan's brother go over to Fayetown 
i most Saturdays and play craps and buy 
moonshine off old man Perkins and ..." 
The sentence died unripe as the 
fi woman tightened her already iron grip 
.on the girl's arm. 

"■"UO^e'll have none of that kind 
of talk, missy, you hear me?" 

By this time Harold was indeed staring 
up from his driver's seat at them. When 
he met the old woman's eyes, he smiled 
quickly, and with a measure of what he 
would have called "innate charm," he 
tried to sound nonchalant. 
"You have folks over this way, 
■* ma'am?" 

The old woman pretended she didn't 

We're goin' to see my Mama," the girl 

Well, that real sweet, it truly is. She 
work over this way, does she?" Harold 
I' spoke too loudly for the small, stuffy au- 
tomobile, as if one or both of the passen- 
gers were deaf or a strong wind was 
^blowing from somewhere. 
. " They didn't answer him. The sky over- 
head, which had started out foggy and 
.chill, began to thaw up a little, as it did 
. most summer days in that part of the 
- World. Little by little, the mist rolled to 
■«e other side of the bed and the huge, 
billowy clouds marched in over the 
open heavens. The girl, throat dry, stuck 
"<* head out the window and looked 

Annielee, get back inside this auto- 

r*" e th is second." The woman tried to 

gonthe homemade jumper. "If you're 

ot gom' behave, we'll turn right around 

" : ^go back home." 

.; " le girl reluctantly ducked back in- 

side the automobile and the woman 
fussed with her braids and collars while 
she squirmed. 

"Now you remember what I told you. 
She's not herself. ... Lord only knows, 
but anyway, you just try to be on your 
best behavior and don't get her excited 
or. . . Oh, fix yourself up ..." 

The girl adjusted her jumper and 
faded into silence. The road veered into 
the small, dinky town, much like her 
own, much like hundreds of dust- 
marked communities in that part of the 
world. The old woman protectively 
touched the bag of fruit which was half 
hidden in her never-ending purse. 
'TTuh_? " 
IL~he old woman seemed to find 
the little burg fascinating, and with 
something approaching delight, she 
gazed at the shop windows, the people 
strolling on the sidewalks, the bright 
marquee over their sole movie theater. 

"Is Mama really sick? I mean, is she 
goin' get well, really get well forever?" 

The girl knew what she meant to say, 
but this time when she really wanted to 
say something out loud, her words came 
out all wrong. Life sure was funny some- 
times. Especially when it came to 

"Honey, only the good Lord can give 
us the future." 

The girl sighed inwardly, knowing that 
when that name was introduced, she 
wouldn't get an answer she could use. 
She gave up and stared out the win- 
dow again. 

They left the town proper and cruised 
along a tree-lined street. The smell of 
honeysuckle tangoed with the melons, 
tomatoes and cow manure, just hanging 
in the heavy, humid air. Somewhere, 
quite near, you could just make out the 
outline of several large, sturdy buildings. 
And the road was making a straight line 
for them. 
The girl started to shiver. 
"You catch a chill, Annielee?" The old 
woman reached for the open window. 
"Here, sit away from that draft." 

~%JL^ ith ancient instinct, she 
wrapped her arms around the girl and 
drew her close, raising the window in 
the process. The girl continued to shiver, 
teeth making little bites against each 
other. The woman smoothed the girl's 
hair and rubbed her neck, right down 
near her back where it always hurt lately. 
She sat bolt upright. 

The forty feet around the curving 
driveway in front of the buildings was 
the hardest. While Harold stiffened and 

let out an audible grunt when he saw the 
sign, the old woman did and said noth- 
ing. The girl had recovered, eyes dry, no 
shivers, no pain. 

"Well, here we are," Harold an- 
nounced, braking sharply and looking 

"Thank you, Mr. Wannaker." 

The two got out of the back and stood 
bewildered in the wide driveway, as if for 
a second they floated on a thin strip of 
land dividing two warring countries. 
Which, thought Harold with some lack of 
what he referred to as "delicacy," wasn't 
far from the nub. 

"Mr. Wannaker, if you could . . . busy 
yourself for an hour or so, we'll be 
needin' a ride back then." 

TULI^hen Harold hesitated a mo- 
ment too long, the old woman was 
forced to remind him that he had con- 
tracted and been amply paid, in advance, 
for a round-trip ride. And they would be 
waiting an hour from now for him at 
this spot. 

As Harold drove slowly down the tree- 
lined street, the girl broke from the old 
woman's grip and ran after the dust- 
spewing automobile. She only got as far 
as the end of the driveway and stopped. 
Above and around her, the skies were 
moving like slow locomotives, and there 
was nothing, no amount of running, that 
would stop them. The girl straightened 
her wrinkled jumper and walked de- 
murely back and took the old woman's 
hand. And hand in hand, they climbed 
the dozen steps to the Hicksville Re- 
gional Hospital for the Mentally 

1 .oony bin, cracked, touched, bats. 

Loose screw, loco, nut house. Crazy as a 
loon. Lightheaded. Mad. Everybody had 
heard these words. Even then, I knew 
what they meant and, most often, who 
they were describing. It didn't mean 
nothin' to me. I could always look up at 
the dancing skies and make animals and 
pirates from the separated clouds. And 
not listen to the words. Mine or anybody 
else's. Today was different. Today, 
Grandma had brought me, and Mama 
wanted to see me, and we had rented a 
real taxi-automobile and drove all the 
way to Hicksville in the pouring heat. 

Grandma could hardly open the 
doors — they were so heavy — which I 
thought was novel, since they had glass 
in their centers. The front hallway was 
empty except for some people in one of 
the waiting rooms off to the side. I 
couldn't think where everybody was, 
and maybe we were interrupting dinner 


and should go right now and come back 
some other time and . . . 

"Now, don't get antsy, Annielee. They 
say she's been on real good behavior. 
And she wants to see you, she really 

"May I help you?" 

^^^ cool, unaccented voice rose 
from the starched person walking 
briskly down the long hallway to meet 
us. She was younger than Mama and sad 
looking, and I was wondering suddenly 
if I would ever have a voice like she had 
instead of the raspy, mumbling one I 
seemed to have been born with. She was 
looking us over as Grandma explained 
why we were here: to see Mama, to check 
on Edith, to, er, visit Mrs. Cabe in 413. 

"The doctor told me over the phone it 
was all right to bring the girl. She so 
wants to see her." Grandma was rum- 
maging in her purse for the letter. She 
fairly forced the nurse to take it. 

"I'll be just a moment, Mrs . . . Becker." 

The nurse conceded and motioned us 
to the vague area which included some 
benches against a wall, a waiting room 
and the refreshment area. She was al- 
ready disappeared into a side hallway. 

"Well, they don't go out of their way to 
be friendly around here, do they?" 
Grandma observed. She was looking for 
a comfortable spot to park ourselves. I 
got the feeling she anticipated a consid- 
erable wait. But it wasn't more than three 
minutes, I was timin' on my birthday Ti- 
mex, when the nurse returned as silently 
as she had gone. A crisp man who 
shouted 'doctor' all over him accompa- 
nied her. 

SSomeone in the waiting room be- 
hind us started crying. Loud, ugly gasps. 
The doctor frowned, the nurse peeled 
out of formation and went over to them 
while the doctor smiled broadly at us. 

"Mrs. Becker, I'm Doctor Bailey. Good 
to meet you." 

They shook hands. He belatedly took 
mine in a mock grip. 

"I came up to see my daughter and I 
brought her girl, she wanted that..." 
Grandma tried not to sound pleading, 
but the doctor not talking made that 

"I know Edith, I know my daughter, 
would want to see her, especially since 
we made this trip special and all. How is 
she, doctor?" 

It was all a rush, and the doctor shook 
his big head and took Grandma's arm 
and began to steer her away. I held tightly 
onto her other arm. The bawling was still 
goin' on in the waiting room, making it 
difficult to hear just what the doctor was 
trying to tell Grandma. Besides which, 


he was prone to mumbling himself, but I 
made out enough. "Erratic behavior," 
"anti-social tendencies," "potentially, er, 
physical reactions," and "pronounced 
delusional patterns resulting from some 
unknown trauma." In other words, 
Mama wasn't getting any better fast. 

<—3Jj randma seemed not to take in 
the words, but she caught the .meaning 
right enough. 

"But doctor, the poor thing wants to 
see her own flesh and blood. She told 
me so herself in that last letter." 
Grandma made a last effort. 

"I'm sorry, Mrs. Becker, we just don't 
feel it would be appropriate at this time. 
Later, perhaps. After more extensive 
therapy or..." He trailed off, handing 
Grandma's letter back to her. "But you, 
Mrs. Becker, can visit with your daughter 
if you like. I'm afraid we'll have to keep it 
short, she shouldn't be disturbed or 

"But I've brought fruit!" Grandma's 
voice broke. She fumbled in her purse, 
locating the bag of oranges and apples 
that the roadside seller woman had as- 
sured us came from California direct. 
The doctor, keeping his hand on Grand- 
ma's arm, called for the nurse. 

"Nurse! Nurse, take Mrs. Becker up to 
Ward C, 413. Now, now, Mrs. Becker, go 
with nurse and she'll direct you and wait 
for you and bring you back downstairs 
wh en yo u're through." 

CZg randma, still trying not to cry 
among strangers, began to follow the 
nurse, leaving me dragging along. 
"Grandma! Where ...?" 
"Oh, Annielee, honey, you go sit right 
over there, next to the Pepsi machine. 
Here's a quarter." 

I don't wanta a Pepsi, I wanta see 
Mama." There, I did it again, the words 
just darting out of my mouth when 
I thought I was only saying them in- 
side me. 

"Course you do, but your Mama's 
feelin' poorly today. And we have to do 
all we can to help her get better. So be a 
good little lady and sit and wait for me." 
The nurse smiled, obviously surprised 
that Grandma had the feel of controlling 
a potential situation so well. They walked 
down the hall and up the stairs at 
the end. 

1 don't know to this day what pos- 
sessed me to get that Pepsi. I wasn't 
thirsty, and hadn't any conscious inten- 
tion of spending good money so liber- 
ally dispensed on a soda when I could 
just as soon have water from the fountain 
near the door. I just found myself pop- 
ping the quarter in the machine, getting 
the change and watching the syrupy liq- 

uid pour into the cup, and then t|„- ■ 
and then the water. From somen* 06, 
upstairs a long, loud yell rang ,„ , 
then what sounded like somethjn! dn ? 
making contact with something h- 1 ' 
took one sip of the Pepsi. Sharp m ' V 
taste, too cold, too immovable i n „ 
rearing motion, I flung the cup and 
contents onto the wall opposite NolJi 
noticed. Only I watched the sugarv wi,,!'' 
splat and swim down the pink' dim 
walls. I watched till the first and if 
dr ops hi t the tiled floor. 

t'hrough the high, barred win 
dow, the day looked to be gettin' bril 
liant, the clouds frozen in their passim 
through the afternoon sky ; as surelv and 
as hugely as I stood immobile, locked in 
front of the Pepsi machine at the Hick- 
sville Regional Hospital some thirty 
years ago. 

When Grandma came down, she was 
teary and prayful. Edith was better, thank 
the Lord. She had thrown a fit, sor'ta, and 
tried to smash the apples and oranges 
against the walls and at the nidrse, but 
who could blame her, when she wasn't 
left in peace for a minute? 

Grandma and I stood outside, not dar- 
ing to look behind us at the building, 
which seemed to retreat once again to its 
original scary state that had first greeted 
us. On that thin strip between the two 
countries. We had a considerable time, 
since Harold wouldn't be back for at 
least the hour we had given him. 
Grandma smiled wanly, pressed my back 
and neck and raised her wrinkled head 
to the sky 

"■"■"ILZU^hy look, Annielee." She 
pointed to the formation in the sky: two - 
bunches of clouds, side by side, but not . 
touching. A strip of brilliant sunlight sep- 
arated and illuminated them both. Like a 
secret door with no password we knew. -, 
"It's a Michael-and-Angelo sky. The '; 
one on the right's Michael and the left is. 
Angelo, or is it the other way round... 
anyway, they live like that, side by side, 
cause they got separated by something 
or other a long time ago." She sighed. "1 
haven't seen one of those for the longest - 
time.. Used to have 'em pretty regular ev- 
ery summer evening . . . when Edith was 
just walkin' ... My, my, my, that takes me 

1 wanted to ask her then who those 
people were, were they brothers or 
what, but she was disinclined to talk any 
more, so we found a semi-comfortable 
perch on the stone steps and waited for 
the taxi-automobile to come collect us 
and go home. 
I never did find out. 





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That's whv societies usedta throw us away/ or sell us/ or 
play with our vaginas/ cuz. that's all girls were good for. 
at least women cd carry things & cook/ but to be born a 
/girl is not good sometimes/ some places/ such abominable 
/tilings cd happen to us. i wish it waz gel to be born a girl every- 
where/then i wd know for sure that no one wcl be infibulated/ 
that's a word no one wants us to know, infibulation is sewing our 
vaginas up with cat-gut or weeds or nylon thread to insure our 
virginity, virginity insurance equals infibulation. that can also 
make it impossible for us to live thru labor/ make it impossible 
• for the baby to live thru labor, infibulation lets us get infections 
that we cant mention/ cuz disease in the ovaries is a sign that 
we're dirty anyway/ so wash yrself/ cuz once infibulated we have 
to be cut open to have/ you know what/ the joy of the phallus/ 
that we may know nothing about/ ever/ especially if something 
•.else not good that happens to little girls happens: if we've been 
excised, had our labia removed with glass scissors, if we've lost 
//pur clitoris because our pleasure is profane & the presence of 
our naturally evolved clitoris wd disrupt the very unnatural dy- 
namic of polygamy, so with no clitoris/ no labia & infibulation/ 
we're sewn-up/ cut-up/ pared down & sore if not dead/ & oozing 
pus/ if not terrified that so much of our body waz wrong & did 
not belong on earth, such thoughts lead to a silence/ that hangs 
behind veils & straightjackets/ it really is not so good to be born 
3 girl when we have to be infibulated, excised, clitorectomized 
&STILL be afraid to walk the streets or stay home at night, i'm so 
saddened that being born a girl makes it dangerous to attend 
midnight mass unescorted, some places if we're born girls & 
■ someone else who's vers' sick & weak & cruel/attacks us & 
•breaks our hymen/ we have to be killed/ sent away from our fam- 
ilies/ forbidden to touch our children, these strange people who 
Wound little girls are known as attackers/ molesters & rapists. 

they are known all over the world & are proliferating at a rapid 
rate, to be born a girl who will always have to worry not only 
abt the molesters/ the attackers & the rapists/ but also abt 
their peculiarities: does he stab too/ or shoot? does he carry an 
axe? does he spit on you? does he know if he doesnt drop sperm 
we cant prove we've been violated? these subtleties make being 
a girl too complex/ for some of us & we go crazy/ or never go 
anyplace, some of us have never had an open window or a walk 
alone, but sometimes our homes are not safe for us either, rap- 
ists & attackers & molesters are not strangers to everyone/ they 
are related to somebody/ & some of them like raping & molest- 
ing their family members better than a girl-child they don't 
know yet. this is called incest, & girl children are discouraged 
from revealing attacks from uncle or daddy/ cuz what wd 
mommy do? after all/ daddy may have seen to it that abortions 
were outlawed in his state/ so that mommy might have too many 
children to care abt some "fun" daddy might be having with the 
2-yr-old/ she's a girl after all/ we have to get used to it. but infibu- 
lation, excision, clitorectomies, rape & incest are irrevocable 
life-deniers/ life stranglers & disrespectful of natural elements, i 
wish these things wdnt happen anywhere anymore/ then i cd say 
it waz gd to be born a girl everywhere, even though gender is 
not destiny/ right now being born a girl is to be born threatened; 
i want being born a girl to be a cause for celebration/ cause for 
protection & nourishment of our birthright/ to live freely with 
passion/ knowing no fear that our species waz somehow incor- 
rect. & we are now plagued with rapists & clitorectomies. we 
pay for being born girls/ but we owe no one anything/ not our 
labia, not our clitoris, not our lives, we are born girls to live to be 
women who live our own lives/ to live our lives, to have/ our 
lives/ to live, we are born girls/ to live to be women . . . 

mt to^z£^^c<s sMsi£3iM^a£j& 

ntozake shange is a widely published poet who lives in new jersey. 


H nterrogation: SIS'rection 

(Man in white doctor's coat asks the questions. Below the c 
transparent pink nightgown can be seen. A woman answers^ 
questions. She wears a man's white shirt and undershorts Sn ^ 
fie slides are coordinated with each interrogation.) ' 

why did you once say my biggest problem was with the structu • ■ 
of the penis? .. . what was the meaning of that? rc 

oh yes, well, for several months I was quite confused as to whirl 
end was up. . . . 

which end was up? 

well, you know when you're pressed together and both wearine 
clothes the erection feels like a bar. . . a vertical ... I couldn't tell 
at which end it was attached to his body. . . 

perhaps, perhaps I see what you mean ... is there something else 
you want to mention? 

well, there it was, rigid between us, and I was all secretly wet but 
I couldn't tell how it could get inside me ... I mean, what was its 
aim? what was its angle between where it was on him and where 
I was inside me? I mean, if it was attached at the top would I need 
to stand on a chair? or if it was attached at the bottom would 1 
bend over? 

S €Z H isj E E r^ R ISJ |SI 

carolee schneemann is a painter, performance artist, 
filmmaker, and writer. 

U nterrogation: K^Ieyhole 

why were you looking in the keyhole? 

I don't know 

what did you see? 

I could see a lady's feet sticking out under a sheet and the edge of 
his white jacket. . . . 

what did you hear him say? 

I didn't understand but I think he said "when did you last mens- 
stru-ate?" and the lady said "when? what?" and he said "when did 
you last bleed?" 

she said "oh, bleed ... not for six weeks" and he said "then I bet- 
ter examine you" 

then what happened? 

I thought he was going to look inside her the way we look in 
a cow calving . . . and what an awful thing to do to a lad 
wanted to run away but I couldn't ... I wanted to see what he did 
...I felt proud of him 

why did you feel proud of him? 

because he could know all the women's secrets and tell them 

what to do and look at whatever he wanted to look at . . . 



m nterrogation: JWZffloM 

where were you sitting? 

in the middle of the rowboat 

where was your brother? 

my brother was on the bow seat dropping his net 

and your father? 

standing up in the stern and dropping his net 

then something happened? 


fflV brother yelled lie had a crab on his line 
v father stepped back & bent over the line 

;)and then? 

||ie disappeared! 


: : he just fell into the bay! 
where was your mother at this time? 
'(think she was home cleaning, feeding the baby, and worrying 

that one of us would drown 

; Interrogation: 



: whvdid he say to put out your hands? 
: he wanted to sniff them 
{did he? 

were you frightened? 

why did he want to smell your fingers? 
II think he guessed about the god-spot 
gwhat was the god-spot? 
"where I could go to heaven touching myself 
■ how old were you? 
i four 

did you put out your hands when he asked? 
;idid he sniff your fingers? 


what did he do? 

lie had a strange smile 
iWhat did your mother do? 
i:she looked confused 

did you say anything? 
|yes I said I Just ate bacon 

■ nterrogation: fits reed 

which seat did you have? 
^'the window- 
where was the bus going? 

ba ck to school after the trip to the zoo 

and why did you get so angry? 

what did he say? 
e whispered in my ear: would you breed my babies for me? 

and why did that make vou angry? 

lw asn't some cow of his! 




OM$$<^ C^S9B~<^ 

Leaning over the rain barrel 
we watched, two children intent 
on the drowned insects floating 
in the soft rain water. 
Almost five was I and he 
was half-past. He had promised 
a secret. He revealed 
a small pink thing and climbing 
on the upended wooden bucket 
Hjalmar my small playmate 
dangled himself in the water 
in genial display. 

Little fish it floated 
pink in sun-warmed water 
made brown with moss that lined 
the wooden barrel staves 
and floated with dead spiders 
tattered moths seed pods 
larvae stray leaves thistle fluff 
all the small debris of summer: 
you can't do this he explained 
'cause you're a girl he said. 

Eve's daughter. Tabula rasa. 

It being morning in Eden 

knew nothing of shame. For shame 

had not yet been invented. 

'Cause you're a girl he said 

but what was it that was lacking? 

To dip and dangle the flesh 

in an old rain barrel. 

Eve claimed me for her daughter: 

I said I didn't care. 

Small animal was I 
living close to the ground 
breathing the intoxicating 
dark and slightly sour smell 
of earth. I hunted 
garden snails digging them out 
from moist and shady homes 
to race them with one another 
on the wooden veranda rail. 

Making my pencil mark 

on the sun-blistered paint 

to measure a snail's pace 

I left them overnight 

and I never knew I was cruel 

when I found them black with death 

in their thin coffin shells 

and none had moved even the width 

of a spider's thread. 


olga cabral lived in Canada until the age of ten. a new 
yorker ever since, she has published books of poetry 
and children's books. 

Joy! The frilled trumpets 
of the petunia beds 
blared out the colors of noon. 
The clock is forever at noon 
and noonday is summer-long 
in the forest of wild grass 
where I played in secret thickets 
a solitary child. 

Not tidy like a room my forest 

it stretches like a pampas a wild steppe 

but it was only a vacant lot next door 

that the rank, coarse prairie grass 

had captured and overrun. 

There it grew child-high 

a sunny ocean of rippling stems 

into which I plunged exploring and eager 

lost in summer hidden from adult eyes. 

There everything was to my scale. 

The forest embraced me with its mysteries. 

We played follow the leader. I led him 

through the hole in the back fence 

where the gray weathered boards had rotted 

behind the morning-glory vines. 

We played hunters tracking game. 

Then grew tired. It was hot. 

We hollowed out a sunny place 

we called a cave. 

Come closer he said. I did. 

Put your arms around me he said. 

I did so. It was awkward 

for we sat facing each other. 

Put your legs around me he said. 

And I did. It was very quiet. 

The wind ruffled the tall dry stalks 

the air was dusty with pollen. 

My head on his shoulder we rocked 

as in a cradle gently together. 

Ignorant of sex yet in sexual embrace 

we remained clasped to each other. 

She was combing my hair. I told her • - 

about the rain barrel. 

She tied the ribbon, said nothing - 

but he never came to play again. "~ 

His sisters came, Chrissie and Kirsten 

but I looked for him all the rest ol iIk- \ mm M 

and then forgot. A lifetime went by. " 

I never told of our secret 

having then no words 

or thoughts that could shape the word; 

for mystery, strangeness. 

Nor did I tell, for I could not 
(having no words) 
of how I walked through a sea of lilies 
when the wild grass flowered. 
Tall spikes reared about me 
each spire crowned with clusters 
of flowerets, each floret a lily 
miniscule and most perfect. 

So sharp then my animal's eye 

I saw with perfect clarity 

each infinitesimal lily 

separate, singular. 

I touched them. They became dust. 

I turned my head. Minute flowers 

dusted my hair. Entranced 

lost in uttermost delight 

I saw their colors: mauve, 

spires of cloudy white and others ' 

of the most delicate pink. 

Looking and only looking 

I could never look enough. 

Everything shone with its own light 

and I did not know what I knew then 

until long after: 

prodigality of shapes and colors ■ '\ 

squandering of beauty, generosity ^ 

of endless creation 

perfection of humblest things. 

There stood I first amazed. 
There hidden as in a fragrant cav 
among the slender swaying stalk: 
of the high prairie grass 
alone with a bee and its cello 
alone with a white butterfly 
I fell asleep and dreamed 
I was an old woman 
writing this poem. 





Wffi®&&M S11PI 


^ : *i« 

P 1 









rosemary mayer's work includes sculpture, watercol- 
ors, writing and teaching, she lives in newyork. 

at jorty-foiir 

4 want to sleep for twenty years. 

Twenty years ago was better 

And maybe in twenty more. 

It will lie better again. 

Here are the stories and wh\ 

1 want ii> sleep, bin 

Know I cannot sleep. 

Because I Know 

No Henry Hudson will 

Come to play with me, 

I am no Rip Van Winkle. 

And then of course I will be sixty-four, 
■remember that song of twenty years ago? 

My friends will love me. 

But. if, will 

The\ still be there? 

I hear talcs of women, 

Some with gray hairs, 

None of us kMs, 

And hi >w do we survive? 

On little jobs and money. 

Honey had the nerves to have 

A comfortable place 

With a husband 

Comfortable, no, safe. 


Now this is only one woman speaking; 
it could be different for you. No doubt 
you are some other age and in a different 
circumstance; but listen to me for I am 
one of you, and I shall tell you stories. 

"*When I was nine I loved my life. I 
was safe, and yes, this is looking back and 
seeing it now, but f was safe. There was 
food, a clean bed, and I could play. I 
knew Grandma was ill, but could she 
die? Not in my cosmogony. Then she 
died and I got older. 

Then one by one the others died as I 
grew taller in my prom gowns, secretly 


■ y^z «^ *~&f t~*~x- a^fts i 

How do you live with graving hairs? 
Avery educated woman. 
You go to interviews. 

Ihey lonk at v. in. 

I have only three or four at < nice, 

but 1 have seen them, 

The women working for so much less, 

getting rejected in new places. 

"Uh, dear," 

Yes. ihey mighi e\en s.i\ thai lo u>n. 

Oh. dear. 

Eight dollars an hour." 
And I knew I was getting twice as much. 
Or more. 

And I would mention it, 
And they would get upset. 
What is the future there? 

There is still the other side, 
The one of endless birthdays. 
It's Utopia; the best occurs, 
And there we always know 
Exactly what to i.\o. 
"^When I'm sleepless. 
It fades to black, 
But other times, 
I add some details. 

reading, arguing, hiding in museums 
and at concerts in parks. At sixteen I had 
no parents, but many friends, a little sis- 
ter, and a mean old guardian uncle. I 
knew no women who showed me any of 
what I might want to do, and I never 
thought then I could do it alone, so I 
married a man. He wasn't Uncle, and, at 
first, he liked the same things I did and 
we could talk, but we knew nothing of 
each other, and that got worse as we 
lived longer in the same places. But lis- 
ten, I have promised you stories. 

Sfiere is the story of Gerlinda, yes, 

her name was Gerlinda, o r nVivh> 
was Emma. We went to grammn,., U ' 
together. She quickly Lne»? 
enough to almost win from m?f 
eighth-grade prizes. And then, wl' , 
saw her last, she worked in a tinv t™ 
agency, where once the old ice c , 
parlor had been in that old old nl, I ■ 
the old neighborhood of J^ 
grade, and then we were thirty-four 

There is also Claudia, from a differ™ 
time of mine and other circumstances 
and wealthy, yes, born wealthy And a," 
threw herself away, for nearly twentv 
years, on a self-important man who ves 
he did, he beat her. So I and friends we 
talked to her and finally she left and 
soon enough, she could support herself 
and life and child and sneeze fully' on 
that now inconsequential male. 

This is not to say that it isn't possible to" 
conjugate, as a girl with boys, or as a 
woman with men; but I think it's hard 
and can lead to much confusion, which is 
not to say it can't be done. Nor do I mean 
to say that Emma Gerlinda might not 
have had, secretly, later, or in another 
place, an entire other life, perhaps in her 
room at night. And I might have been 
Gerlinda, or you, Emma. Instead, I had 
already flown, on a sixties youthfare 
ticket, to get divorced in Mexico, come 
home delirious, to be alone, and then 
done what I could of things I wanted 
to do. 

B> ut I need more stories, so here is 
the story of Mara. Mara lived with her 
mother and father and a younger sister. 
Then Mara met Bill. In the oldest-fash- 
ioned sense, it was love at first sight. 
They soon produced another Mara, and 
Bill gave up all his old lovers, boy and . 
girl, and man, and woman. Mara went 
back to school. And the new Mara, well, 
you should see her. But I should add thai 
the sister of the elder Mara killed herself. 
She jumped out a window alone and 
high on drugs. 

There is also Sara. I did love Sara's 
mother. We went through schools and 
lovers together. And then she married, 
and Sara, well, there is a bell that could 
ring in tomorrow. 

Now these have been mostly easj 
tales. We forget, I do, maybe on purpose, 
the women who died of cancer in the fif- 
ties, feeling only their family's resent: j 
ment. How could you do this to us? wi 
are so ugly now. And then i : u r e w •* n \ 
help. There were sisters and daughters 

who dealt with this mostly in siIence ' ■' 
among those too young to be telling • , 

thing to. We forget too the women * 
stare from windows. We forget purcw . 



; ,'ihr 




; liei 













many no longer young or 

sane or 


«ad there was Maras sister. 
Tout some, from twenty to twenty- 
'',» but thought to herself and said to 
'fhit she was dumb and ugly. We who 

• her saw she wasn't, and with Mara 
' I others, well, we tried to tell her, but 
fidn't take. Then she met a boy, yes, he 
k still a boy, silly on drugs, and he gave 

to her, and we would see her inco- 
■rent at dinner, unable to eat, and we'd 
II tr y just to talk to her. Her parents 
•re worse. They yelled and threatened. 
jt she did try to stop, and then she did, 
icl'then her boyfriend disappeared, and 
en mostly, she stayed in her room at 
i'rii'e till one day when, somehow, 
nen she was out, she got more drugs, 
id that night, really it was almost morn- 
o, everyone else was sleeping, and she 
imbed out onto the balcony, then she 
imbed over it, and then she fell. 
1 remember, too, a novelist, chubby 
id 'nervous. She drank a lot, and she 
rote well. Then she went to London 


and bought a house. Once we ate an ele- 
gant lunch she'd made there, under her 
skylights, and we talked about writing 
and clothes, mortgages and loneliness. A 
few months later she was dead, in her 
late thirties, of sleeping pills and 

So there should have been more 
dinners and lunches, more letters or 
phone calls or more of almost anything 
from all of us. We could have brought the 
birthday cakes and danced in a circle, lis- 
tened and sang. But I have promised you 
stories. What age would you like to hear 
about? Emma Gerlinda was thirty-four 
and Claudia's almost fifty. Mara is now 
thirty-seven, and the new Mara and Sara 
aren't ten. Mara's sister was twenty-four, 
and the novelist, thirty-eight. At forty- 
four I remember nine because I'm tired 
and I want to rest. I've been thinking how 
I have been dancing a long time. At 
twelve I was learning the steps, and at 
seventeen the pattern is often inflexible. 
But slowly, if you can, you crumble the 
rules, and you dance more and more in a 

way that you choose. Now and then you 
question your steps. Maybe you change 
them or even decide to give up dancing, 
but then you get dull and thick and 
bored and come out again with a better 
pair of shoes. So my stories might tell 
you how you cannot, a woman, be Rip 
Van Winkle. 

Or maybe you can. Or maybe the com- 
parison doesn't quite hold in this story of 
Josephine. Yes, that really could be her 
name, it can be, you know, a name. Jo- 
sephine married young and quickly had 
three boys. Her husband, well, she left 
him when she had three babies, one and 
three and five, and she was twenty-four. 
She went to work as a secretary typing 
for money for food and rent and babysit- 
ters. The boys grew and so did she. Then 
she married a teacher and they all went 
West and lived and grew up further. 
Then the boys were gone to college. Jo- 
sie left her second husband, and where 
was she then, she thought, with no 
money and no place to go? She worked 
at dull, dull jobs, and then she found a 

""""lifonia, v 

place of her own. With no help, she 
moved what she had on a dolly she 
pulled through the streets. Then she 
found more little jobs. Once, then, I met 
her at one of her jobs, and she had no 
money at all. I had brought a tuna sand- 
wich, iced tea, and we shared it. She 
wouldn't take any money. Then Josie met 
Roy. All went well. Josie made sculptures. 
Roy did too. They bought some land in 
the country. They lived in tents while Jo- 
sie designed a house and then they built 
it. They are busy there with sculptures 
and guests, flowers and ponds and frogs, 
and even birds and stars. Josie worries 
about her independence, or depen- 
dence. The last word depends on how 
you see the story. 

smow I do have other stories, so I 
hope you will listen more, but first con- 
sider that last story, the one about Josie. 
It's a help to me, because I come of age as 
I tell you stories. The gray hairs, mine, 
the three or four at once, like the inter- 
views, they get longer. In other places 
and other times, that metallic glint, that 
changing of colors, it would have been 
respected. In old China, when a woman 
had passed the years of so-called fruitful 
sex, she became, to those younger in her 
family, and to others, one of power and 
wisdom. The older women of the Iro- 
quois sat in council, made laws. 

Now for sure it isn't any fun to need 
strong glasses. It's also a bore to have 
your feet or back or hands or knees hurt 
all day or be stiff at sunrise, but here and 
now, for some at sixty-eight or more, 
alone or even with company, or even 
very much less in years, it's hard to have 
just the cash for food or rent unless 
you've been extraordinary. All would 
give presents to children, or to their 
grandchildren, if they have them. So 
many do what they have to. I know about 
have to; that's how I met Catherine. She is 
fifty-two. She knows how to write very 
well for textbooks — reading, grammar, 
spelling, she can do them well, and then 
what, or why? To get the money But have 
you looked at a textbook lately? Pick one 
up — grades preprimer to twelve. This is 
what she does, and this is the future, and 
she does it for very little money. Last time 
I talked to her she had a cold. She had it 
because she'd turned down the heat in 
her house. No, there isn't always enough 
for heat at eight dollars an hour, and yes, 
to some extent, she is part of the sys- 
tem, and readily hired, at eight dollars 
an hour. 

&here is also Madelaine, or she is a 
different Catherine. Now she is seventy- 
six. Once they were nine, the brothers 


and sisters, and as often happened in that 
time, the father, a bricklayer, died before 
fifty. The mother relied on the sisters and 
brothers and children. At twelve 
Catherine was working in a local gar- 
ment factory. Nothing happened, just 
work and Christmases, more New Years 
and returning Easter Sundays. She still 
says she was never pretty like her sisters. 
In fact, she has cut off the parts of old 
photographs where she stood. At twenty- 
nine she married the owner of one of the 
factories in which she sometimes 
worked. He was educated. She was not. 
He spoke of music and the ballet while 
she ironed his shirts. He went to the op- 
era. She stayed home. They had a son. 
When her husband died, Catherine was 
fifty-four. She still wears black, and her 
son seldom visits. She lives on pensions, 
food stamps, occasional phone calls, and 
what's on television. 

Unlike Claudia, Clarissa was not born 
wealthy, in fact, she doesn't know exactly 
where she was born. She was adopted 
early into a farm family in the American 
Midwest. As she grew, she got bored, so 
she went away to study art. She was good 
at it. Then she lived the scrabbly life of a 
young woman artist alone in a big city 
Then she decided. She didn't want the 
life she had and nothing more. She 
found a delightful man and she married 
him. Then she decided again. She 
wanted a better job. She got it and her 
work continues. 

there is also Brenda. She lived ten 
years with a man who didn't want chil- 
dren, but she did. She wrote poems, and 
then she left him. She married another 
poet, a man who wanted children. They 
had three, and they wrote more poems, 
but between them it didn't work. So she 
left again and now she has the children 
and friends and poems and eager stu- 
dents in writing classes. 

Betty was different. She loved Claire. 
Betty wrote novels and Claire loved 
math. For a long time, Betty's novels 
didn't do so well, but Claire learned 
more and more about computers. Now 
they live in an old, old house that Betty 
bought with some money from the nov- 
els. When I visit them, I get their rocking 
chair, and we tell stories. 

Annie's also quite a tale, but it would 
be too long to tell about all her sculp- 
tures, or they could be paintings, about 
her lovers and family, her many one-time 
jobs, and how she got to where, now, she 
can do mostly what she wants. 

But if I had the time, the story would 
go something like this: Annie made 
sculptures or maybe she made paintings. 

Then she found a man. She m-ide 
sculptures but he didn't like 'the *' 
they were paintings. Her friends di<?', °! 
so did "they" who gave her mo , v 
grants, and she figured out how t0 Jn 
her work. But he was impossible Tl, 
were more sculptures, or th ev Cm ,^ 
paintings. Friends applauded and , 
scowled. He got lost. v 

So now I've told more stories is ut i 
and my friends are a privileged bund 
We are white, educated, we look fin,.' 
and we are a small, small part of all tht 
women, so our comings of age, thouah 
important, speak and tell of only really a 
little edge of all the women. We owe a 
lot, and we need to understand, if we 
can, the worst. 

So can I write for you, a storvof really - 
the worst, of desperation? Yes, indeed '< 
sometimes I have no money, but usually i 
can get it, and I live in a place with run- 
ning water, heat, and I have not onlv a 
possible bank account, but also years' of 
good enough schools and books, and 
jobs and pleasures. People will hire me. 
They even like what I do. So I sometimes 
have money to spend even on cats I keep 
for my pleasure, and sometimes time 
enough, but I want more, to play at doing }■ 
what I like and asking questions. Though':"-! 
I sometimes wish I were nine again and ..! 
could play forever, then again I would 
soon become ten and I hirty and fifty and 
seventy-three. I also know few women in 
all the last several centuries have doneso j 
well as I and some friends of mine. So 
can I tell you stories of the very hardest -i 
lives and should I? What good would it 
do if I could? Would we then go out and ■ 
feed the hungry, give il.i h v..i"nt!i and 

Sh&ere's a try. There is a v. < ■nun with 
only one leg who sits on a corner near ' 
where I live. She is black but scarred 
light and pink on her face and arms. Dif- 
ferent people bring her i>>iul. j'.ive her 
money and help her home to the shabby 
hotel in which she lives. What does she 
think as she lies in bed? N< < I utmoi tell 
her story. 

So here is how I see ii iu >w • ' kv.iusc i 
heard it from my niece. She is eleven and 
she said: 

^?^hen you are old enough you 
know what to do, and 

you can do it without j-JmiiP W 
body. You fix up ,.. 

the world. Like that old lady. »«- 

likes the ., fflC i 

cookies, and we tall. ^ tolls 

stories. ,, i i-ire ^ 

When you are old I will wM- L * 

of you. 




And \ 






the, I 
and i 




an ex 
'is i,. 


ineill is a poet living in Sacramento, ca. 




•'our grandpa wore white cotton socks summers 
grey woolens winters 
Your fgrandma balled his socks 
darned hole Thompson toe poked through 
They stayed mated. 

Your ma married a man wore white cottons and grey woolens 
The marriage endured. 
You married a man wore orlon 
P&notted his socks 
kept a spare drawer with lost mates 
The marriage was a mismatch. 
Your new man's got himself a darnin' egg 
®3oesn't ask vou to mend what his livin' wears out. 


•treasonous hairs of grey 
And me without a man. 
A few unripe ones slipped away 
lile I waited for the next and best 
} The season passed 

And suddenly there were no more, 
Only a strand or two of grey 
Slithering through the tall grass. 

Somewhere in the jungle 

■"■"■en crawl on their bellies, 

Cradling rifles 

Not yet pointed my way 

jman greying in the mirror, 

How can I be growing old 

And feel so immature? 

Should I grow it wild and wooly again 

As in rebellious youth, my hair, 

Or shear it, clip it back or up, 

Dam the flow of rage and laughter? 

Somewhere in the jungle 
Those men are creeping closer. 

I pull out the traitorous grey, 

One, two, a dozen, 

But as I do, I touch 

How strong they are, 

Thicker cable than the threads of youth, 

Tougher cloth to weave. 

There will be some compensation 

For the lost brass ring. 

And I will be ready 

"or the sniper's bullet 

When it comes. 

In a rough cotton smock 

I will stand in the clearing 

And face the green jungle. 

Perhaps as I raise my aged arms 

I will tremble. 

But I will be ready. 

hettie Jones writes books for children and young 
adults as well as poetry and stories for grown folks, 
she teaches at nyu and suny purchase. 


ik- 1 





Iren gone 

■ enough to 

he toilet 

jtring works— and rots- 
it old telephone wire's 
: ?Hent underwater medium 

details, she said 
«3fion't complain 
about others boring 
you do the same 

and it's true 

But oh how I mark now this lone self 
this woman I don't know 
the habits of 

gggone her hardcore phonewire life 
I'm strung, all fiber 

Knotting like my toilet works 

my hands in the tank 
as the house stills 

as the water fills 
Hrrees the string 

and I too do 
float awav 

coordinator of the women's studies program and as- 
sistant professor of ' english at brooklyn college, carole 
rose livingston is a folk singer, songwriter, poet, 
scholar, and political activist. 



«ora r. wainer was raised a second-generation femi- 
nist participant, she has published stories, articles 
and a hook on matters of feminism, literature, edu- 
cation and going to sea. 

I guess I did kind of take a special lik- 
ing to Ina right when I was first assigned 
to her, but then I always had a weak spot 
for the more unusual ones. 

It wasn't a bad job, now that I look 
back, though the pay was only minimum 
wage. It was a job I was eligible for since I 
turned sixty-two and started collecting 
Social Security. It seems Social Security 
has this program, sending you out to take 
care of people older and more helpless 
than you are. I suppose you get a chance 
to see that way how you yourself are 
likely to end up. 

^L^kHtien I first met Ina I was just 
doing my job the way I was supposed to 
and I had no intention of "getting in- 
volved," the way Social Security warns 
you against. She was one of the oldest on 
my route— near eighty-six. The first 
thing I had to do right off when I went to 
her place in the trailer court, after intro- 
ductions, was change her diaper. Well, 
this wasn't as bad as it seems. I was taking 
in babies all last year before Social Secu- 
rity put me on this job (I got a license on 
the basis of some college courses I took) 
and of course you have to change infants 
all the time. Changing adults is worse, 
not because of the fact of the mess or 
anything, but they're usually embar- 
rassed—at least Ina was — or cross with 
you as well as themselves that they've 
had to revert to childhood in their bro- 
ken old bodies and can't take care of 
themselves right. I must admit, Ina had 
some of that too. What I usually did right 
after getting them changed and into 


fresh clothes and back in their wheel- 
chairs, was put up some water for coffee 
and invite them, no matter how senile, to 
sit up and chat for a while. Even if they 
can't remember three sentences on the 
same subject, they usually like to have 
you sit by them to show some kind of hu- 
man respect. 

That first time, Ina reached from her 
wheelchair to let me in through the 
screen door of her trailer. She'd been ex- 
pecting me; Social Security had sent her 
people before — she sized me up good — 
not too thin, not too fat, looking perhaps • 
young for my age. I did not know how to 
respond. I'm used to this going over 
when I first come to a place, yet it always 
makes me feel like a whore on parade. 
We introduced ourselves, shook hands, 
her grip firmer than some. After the pre- 
liminary hygienics, which we both bore 
with no complaints, I offered to make 
coffee. Ina, seated in her wheelchair, is- 
sued instructions like an old general on 
grudging retirement. I drank in her ac- 
cent — the way she dropped the "h" in my 
name, imperious like in a voice flavored 
with the exotic stuff of faraway ports. 

" •* 354Tou know any languages, 
Marta?" Ina said to me right off the first 
day while I was running the water into 
her pot to make us some coffee. 

"Passed English. Flunked French," I 
said. "Know two or three words in Span- 
ish — you have to around here. I guess I'll 
do with the one I mainly get by on. " 

"Yiddish was my first language," said 
Ina wistfully. "But that I almost comple- 
tely forgot. French was the main one. 
Spanish. Some German. Egyptian, Ara- 
bic, Hebrew. English came close to the 
end. I was hoping even out here to prac- 
tice a little with the other languages." 

"There's always the Spanish girls from 
Meals on Wheels," I offered. 

"I do that, too. Don't think I don't," she 

"How come you speak all those lan- 
guages?" I asked her once I sat down 
with the coffee at the little table in her 
dining area where she parks her wheel- 
chair. "I don't know anyone in the whole 

of San Luis Obispo County speaks -,H 
those languages, 'cept maybe up', 
Cal Poly where my son goes-and then' 
they mostly teach them Sheep Cow 
and Pig." ' 

"You got a good sense of humor " she 
said. "I'll let you stay. Bring me the sugar 
and cream— and a spoon." No please N<> 
thank you. She ordered me around like 
that every visit right up to the last. ,\] v 
husband Ray says it's a sight to watch he's 
never seen before. All she has to say is 
scratch my back, and lo, I scratched 'the 
backeth until she tells me she's had 

"No fooling, Ina," I said when all the 
coffee was satisfactorily served, and 1 had 
placed a napkin up at her neck for her 
because her hands seemed to shake— 
"How come you know all those lan- 
guages?" Then, of course, she proceeded 
to tell me. 

It occurs to me now that what seemed 
idle getting-acquainted chat may have 
been what got me hooked in the situa- 
tion — at least that was the start of getting 

ly first husband was Jew- 
ish," I said when Ina started in about 
Yiddish. "But that didn't last long. 1 got a 
daughter by him back East in New York 
and they have a lot of Jews there. She 
even married one of them so I guess my 
grandkids are Jewish." 

"That's not the way it works, " snapped 
Ina as if I'd said something dumb. "They 
go by the mother. But I been all over the 
world almost. I get along with all kinds. 
Even you. You're cute. Someday I'll tell 
you some stories." 

Meals on Wheels came in on us that 
time — that's the volunteer organization 
from the hospital that provides two 
meals a day for shut-ins who can't fix 
their own. Ina spoke something in Span- 
ish to the woman who brought in her 
lunch and the girl answered back with an 
embarrassed laugh as if she hadn't really 
understood. I knew that was my cue to 

Over the next several weeks I got to 
know just about all there was to Ina s lite, 












V: C01 










eighty-six years in five or 
Her husband was a dia- 









? t to 



*'^^^B9nh h , ; 

4fyou can ten 
six sessions, 
mond merchant in Paris. She came from 
3 small town in Belgium. She was quite 
young when she married; he was consid- 
erably older, but rich as they come. As 
soon as the Nazis invaded Poland — I 
think it was in '39, they had the foresight 
' to get out of Europe. By then there were 
^couple of kids. She has six all told now 
■•but 'I forget which ones were born 
;where. They spent the war years and af- 
ter in Cairo and it was there she learned 
■her husband's jewelry business herself. 
jliey lived very well — big house, car, ser- 
: $iitis until 1957 when the Egyptian Gov- 
ernment confiscated all foreign wealth. 
Then broke, widowed, a few of the chil- 
dren still small, she moved to Israel and 
made a modest living, enough to keep 
going, teaching languages and, on the 
side, still dabbling in gems. 

ICLll that talk of cities and places 
was like magic elixir to me. Ever since I 
was in high school I had dreamed of trav- 
eling to all parts of the world. I even 
started at UCLA to be a dietician because 
•gbfigured that would be the only way I 
could work on a ship. But marriage and 
pregnancy put an end to that. Sometimes 
I even think I married my first husband, 
Maurice, because of his accent and the 
fact he'd spent his grammar school years 
in Cannes. When I first met Ray he was in 
Ihe merchant marines and I always for- 
gave him his long absences because of 
'nestories he'd tell me of ports, cargoes, 
and local color. Then when we got mar- 
«edand he settled in to construction he 
fopped telling stories— putting all that 
tenind him, and I stopped getting one 
w ordoutof him about going to sea. 

Listening to Ina, I felt all those old 

yearnings come back in a rush. I'm now 

_2 a Position— my children from both 

images grown— but who's going to 

^ e °n a sixty-two-vear-old sailor's" ap- 
rentice— so i gucss rm = st stuck here 

- mU) sPerditos 

Still, I encouraged Ina to tell me more 

tllikP ab ° Ut prewar Paris and raisin 8 
ren in Cairo ami housing problems 

in Tel Aviv while I fussed in her kitchen 
and saw she was clean. Finally I wanted 
to reciprocate — that's just the way the 
idea began. We had settled into her 
kitchen, expecting the imminent arrival 
of Meals on Wheels. Ina was just about to 
get around to telling me how she wound 
up in a trailer court here in Los Perditos 
when I was suddenly struck with a 
thought. "Hey, listen," I said finally, stay- 
ing past my time while she was already 
looking out for her lunch. Meals on 
Wheels arrived just at that moment and I 
had to wait until she was settled into her 
meatloaf to go on. She looked so haughty 
as she ate, mincing bites, keeping her 
elbows off, sipping soup from the far 
side of the bowl. "What I was thinking ..." 
I went on, fascinated, watching her eat. 
"How would you like to go out to the 
Swap Meet?" 

"Put up the coffee now, Marta," she 
said in that hoity toity accented voice of 
hers as if she hadn't heard me. "Come," 
she said — it sounded like a command — 
"Come drink some coffee with me." 

•* "* %%£T on didn't even let me finish 
my offer, t said, but I went on ahead and 
put up the coffee — just instant, from a jar 
in her refrigerator. "You act like a prin- 
cess," I said, but I tried to sound gentle, 
not mean. "The way you order every- 
body around — I heard you do the same 
thing to your daughter Elena. You know, 
that's just what you are — a Jewish-Ameri- 
can Princess — -JAP, that's what my grand- 
son tells me is all the rage in New York." 

"What's that— JAP?" 

"I just said it — Jewish-American Prin- 
cess. Seems she's a spoiled young lady, a 
pampered Daddy's darling brat. They 
had that in the movies — Good-bye Co- 
lumbus, Marjorie Morningstar." 

"I was out of the country when that 
happened," she said. 

"Well, you can catch up on it now," I 
said. "They have jokes about it. My grand- 
son writes me letters full of them. That's 
all he has to say about life in New York — 
JAP jokes. Like this — don't let me inter- 
rupt you while you eat, I really should be 
scooting on out of here." 

Ina looked up, muttered something in 
one of her eight languages that I did not 
understand, then reached for my hand as 
I started to go. "Don't go yet. Stay. Tell 
jokes if you have to tell jokes. I'm not too 
old to understand jokes." 

"Okay. Here goes. But you're not go- 
ing to like it. What's a Jewish-American 
Princess's — JAP's — favorite sexual posi- 
tion?" There was a long pause in which 
she did not say anything. "Give up?" I 
asked. Again she said nothing, just 
quietly took her hand away to break 
bread and offer me some. I waved it 
away. "Okay then, I'll tell you. Facing 

"What's that?" Ina said. She motioned 
to me to pour her more coffee. 

"The Jewish-American Princess's 
favorite sexual position." 

"I heard that part of it," Ina said. She 
didn't dribble or spit as a lot of them her 
age do, but delicately blotted her lips 
with the napkin Meals on Wheels pro- 
vided. "What's this Bloom — that part I 
didn't get. I might want to tell this to 
Elena. She always says I act like I think 
I'm a princess." 

** * JK^loomingdale's is a big store 
in New York. I went there last time I was 
back to see my girl. The prices you 
wouldn't believe. And the stuff — you 
never saw such stuff in your life. I 
couldn't afford a square inch of it. And all 
those fauncy-schmauncy ladies in their 
get-ups. I had to tell my daughter to get 
me out of there before I fainted from too 
much suffocating gla-moour. I'm afraid 
it's the Swap Meet for me." 

"They're telling these jokes about Jews 
in New York?" 

"Jews are telling them. About their 
own selves. They tell them to each other 
and pass them around. My grandson 
picks this stuff up from other Jews in his 
school. Then in his letters he tells them 
to me. I guess I should be honored. He 
doesn't think I'm any different from what 
he is." 

"It's good to have a sense of yourself, I 
guess. To laugh at yourself," she said, but 
she wasn't smiling. "Jews always do, I 

"I wouldn't know about that," I said. "I 
didn't stay married long enough to that 
Jewish guy to find out." Then I started 
once again to go out. 

"Tell me," she said as if her questions 
could hold me there, "what is this Swap 

Well, I did wind up staying way over 
time to tell her. I couldn't blame her for 


wanting to know about things going on 
outside her little trailer. Although she 
has a ramp leading up to the door, built 
by her son-in-law so they can get the 
wheelchair up and down, she almost 
never goes out. Oh, a couple of times a 
month a special van comes to take her to 
the Seniors Arts and Crafts Center. But 
I'm about the only person she was seeing 
outside of her daughter Elena, and the 
Spanish woman from Meals on 
Wheels — but she doesn't talk much. So I 
found myself going on maybe a lot 
longer than I should have explaining the 
Swap Meet. But all I said about the Swap 
Meet was that it's the same thing people 
tell me they call a flea market back East. 
On weekends people who have stuff to 
sell rent a space on what's a big black- 
topped lot left from when some develop- 
ers thought they'd build a shopping mall 
there before the Air Force moved out of 
town and all their jobs and personnel 
with it. Some realty people got the idea 
to use the place as a Swap Meet. Some 
part of it — the part where I mostly go — is 
booths where people bring their 
crafts — just stuff they made at home, ma- 
crame, hooked rugs, jewelry made out of 
shells or rocks they picked up at the 
beach. Mostly, however, there are 
marked-off stalls where people got a 
good deal on a gross of luggage, say, or 
sweaters, jackets, men's suits, belts, any 
kind of thing and they sit there all day on 
camp chairs hoping somebody will buy. 
Then some sell fruits and vegetables, but 
that's almost all Mexicans and Arabs, and 
you have to watch for prices and thumbs 
on the scale. Most of the people are 
pretty nice and offer you coffee if you're 
there selling with them, and the fog 
starts coming in thick. I usually get a stall 
end of November through Christmas for 
selling my granny dolls. My granny 
dolls — by that time I had given Ina one — 
are simple to make — I spent fifteen years 
in Frisco as a sewing machine operator 
so they're pretty easy on my machine at 
home. I take a granny face with a wig — 
you can buy those wholesale at a notions 
supply house and attach it to a base then 
sew up a hat and this big full-length skirt. 
I put pockets in the skirt to hold napkins 
or dried flowers for a centerpiece on 
your table, sort of to get a conversation 
going. Made $257.50 sheer profit on 
them last year and that, of course, was 
weekends only. 

SOKTell, that was all Ina had to 
hear. "Marta, it's just like a bazaar, isn't it? 
I mean like the ones they had in the small 
towns in Egypt and then, I remember, we 
used to go in the Arab sectors of Israel." 


"I never thought of it that way," I said. 
"Just a regular California Swap Meet like 
they have all over the state. I don't know 
what they call them in other places." 

"And you sell things there. And the 
people come to buy. . . with my crochet 
. . . Can you take me there?" Well, I had to 
tell her I couldn't, what with Social Secu- 
rity rules. But she begged and wheedled 
the hell out of me. Finally, after a week 
when it'd been raining hard out of sea- 
son and she'd been entirely shut in with 
no one but her daughter to come by — 
and hers only a perfunctory visit — and 
Ina didn't even get out to Senior Arts and 
Crafts, and had to ask me to pick up some 
yarn for her crocheting, I began to 
give in. 

Senior Arts and Crafts thev m , n „, , 
teach her how to crochet-l-sh ' '" 
done it before. But they only* "^ 
one pattern. Typical. She docs «v , r: 
over again these sort of top L* ,h and 

a spare roll hidden on the counter if ! P 
have one in your bathroom or on Iw 
the tank and it'll look decoration? °f 
of just a roll of toilet paper sitting uW 
staring at you-Johnny-toppers the Sac 
calls them. Now, of course, with herl™ i 
eyesight Ina has to crochet them in | ar 
stitches so, even though the point is £ 
hide it, the toilet paper shows throim!. 
You never want to tell Ina about tint' 
though, because that was just about thV 
only creative thing she could do 

!he thing you have to understand 
about Ina and her crocheting is that she's 
getting close on to being blind. She usu- 
ally recognizes me whenever I come. 
The smaller details she sees dim. But at 

.— j*ut she wanted so bad to go to 
the Swap Meet and I wasn't thinkinc 
about why or why not. She wanted to see 
about selling her crochetwork, she said 
and I said that was pretty impractical but 

I die 
• that 




■ Any 






V u 






lyn hughes is an artist living and working in new york city, sheiscurren ) 



IS lu 


rj not want to let on to her in any way 
p't I did not think her Johnny-toppers 
Id go. "Why do you want to sell stuff 
^lieSwap Meet?" I asked her. "It's a full 
liv sitting there dealing with people and 
1 o't much of a payoff. You're not used to 
Int kind of hard work—Miss Jewish- 
! w erican Princess." 
'"That's it," said Ina, and there was a 

leasing gli nt io her smile - ll nuis ' be be ~ 
niise I'm Jewis' 1 - You nevC1 ' heard of 
that? Jewish people like to sell things, 
that's how we survive. For years it was 
diamonds across the exchange. Now 
yarn made into hats for the toilet paper. 
You got to keep at it. Keep going. Stay 

|:JjCo stay alive and keep at it — I knew 
exactly what she meant. Then with those 
words and the look on her face, I finally 
gave in. "But we'll go the first time just to 
explore — check it out, as my grandson 
would say. And I've got to see if they're 

going to have my space back for my 
granny dolls in time for Christmas shop- 
ping and all." 

"We could sell together. I'll pay half 
the rent," said Ina, and her face was all 
elated and cheery with smiles. "That way 
you could still take care of me and every- 
thing would be kosher with the SS." 

^l^KSTell, Ina and I started out swell 
at the Swap Meet, at least to begin with. 
Some Mexican fellows helped her out of 
my car with the wheelchair and we set 
out together, me pushing, exploring the 
stalls, with her speaking all her lan- 
guages that fit. All the time sitting up re- 
gal like some queen of the Gypsies. First, 
to sort of get a feel of the place, we went 
up and down the squares of tomatoes, 
cutlery, tools, galoshes, old and new 
clothes, books, books, books — mostly 
Reader's Digest Condensed. Everywhere 
we went I had friends from the last cou- 
ple of Christmas seasons when I sold 
granny dolls and I was having a grand 



% ssm 






T*^-x- - ___»«!?•• v - ;,! 

»~ " fc 


time exchanging weather reports, health 
news, and estimates of this season's 
crowd. I showed Ina off to everyone, in- 
troducing her as a prospective seller, and 
everywhere the folks all were nice to her 
and she was full of smiles for whatever or 
whoever she saw or could dimly make 
out. Finally, after she'd found some Arabs 
who'd migrated up from L.A. she could 
talk to, she began to look a bit peaked. 

"It's not quite like an Egyptian bazaar, 
Marta," she whispered, "but, even so, it 
brings back my youth. And the moun- 
tains in the background all yellow. The 
sun beating down. Dots of green from 
the shrub oak, but mostly the yellow 
grass mountains take me right back to 

We had stopped by then, found some 
sodas, and I sat on a camp stool beside 
her, both of us in a mood together we 
had not been before. "I wouldn't want to 
live anyplace else," I said. "I mean rather 
than here in Los Perditos. I once spent a 
couple of years in New York City when 
my daughter was young, but, hell, I 
couldn't live there — I don't know how 
she stands it. Here with these yellow hills 
is where I fit best and I'll probably just 
grow old here watching them roll." 

"That is, if somebody's good enough 
to wheel you out to see them," Ina said. 
And she took my hand in hers — and 
she'd never done that to me before. 

•* "* Come on," I said before I 
teared up, "let me find out about my sell- 
ing space for the napkin dolls up in the 
crafts shed before it gets booked." 

"And the Johnny-toppers," Ina said, 
stiffening up for the resumed ride. 
"Don't forget that. You and me selling 
here together. We'd have a hell of a time. 
I'm good at selling — " 

"I know, I know," I said, patting her 
hand, "you're Jewish. You know how 
to sell." 

She didn't answer, just smiled. 

Well, I guess the trip to the Crafts Shed 
was the beginning of our undoing. I had 
forgotten that the woman who rents the 
space there on weekends is also a some- 
thing or other for Social Security. I wasn't 
even thinking of that by that time. And 
she didn't say word one to me about it ei- 
ther. Only too glad to get my check for 
the space. Once I was finished, Ina was 
just getting herself drawn together to 
speak up for her share. Then the 
woman — Stella Marks — looks down by 
the wheelchair where we had it parked 
with the brake on smack dab in her As- 
troturf. And hers was one of the few stalls 
had more on the floor of it than blacktop, 
gravel, or plywood. Then I looked down, 


too. There was a big puddle streaming 
off under the wheelchair in that yellowy 
color all of us know. And I had double- 
diapered her too, both layers lined in 
surgical plastic. 

.ou can't bring this lady in 
here, Martha." Stella started to reach for 
the wheelchair herself. I pushed her 
away. "She belongs at home. You can't 
bring her out here at her age." 

"She doesn't mean anything by it," I 
said. But I felt guilty the way you do when 
you take a new baby out for a visit to in- 
laws and right away it pees in their lap. 
"Her nerves in that part of her body are 
all gone from her stroke," I explained. 
"She doesn't even feel it when it comes 

"Take her home, Martha," Stella said. 
"I guess I can hose it down later. Hope 
none of my customers see." 

It must have been Stella Marks who re- 
ported me to Social Security. A lot of peo- 
ple who saw us at the Swap Meet knew I 
worked there, so maybe it could have 
been anybody — who knows, even Ina's 
daughter Elena — upset that I had worn 
Ina out. Ina was pretty beat down by the 
time I got her back home. 

The people at Social Security did al- 
low me one last visit, though, to make the 
rounds of all my shut-ins, say good-bye 
and tell them they'd be getting some- 
body new. Ina was the last on my list. 

I could tell she knew what I came for. 
Her eyes were just a bit teary — not much. 
She handed me ajohnny-topper. "I want 
you to remember me," she said. 

"I already have ten at home," I told her. 
"You'll definitely be hard to forget." 

"Take this one," she insisted, and 
thrust one into my hand. It was sort of a 
rose color and she'd even managed, in 
spite of bad eyes, to sew on a few beads. 

"Okay," I said. "All right. At least it 
matches my paint." I stuffed the rose-col- 
ored Johnny-topper into my bag. "Hey," I 
said after a bit, "my grandson sent me a 
new JAP joke. This one's fresh from New 

"How's that?" she asked. Maybe it was 
late. She didn't seem to have her usual 

. ewish-American Princess. I 
told you — they're calling them JAPs." 

"More of your anti-semitism?" she 
said. A spark of the old tease came back 
to her eyes. I told her the joke — the one 
about how do you know when a Jewish 
American Princess has an orgasm. And 
the punchline is that she drops her em- 
ery board. 

"Oh," Ina said, when I finally ex- 


plained it to her the third time through. 
Just flat like that. "Oh, I get it. Anti-semitic 
but funny. I guess I can laugh at orgasms, 

Then we both laughed together. 
"Don't get me started," I said while we 
were wiping our eyes. "Don't make me 
laugh. Ever since my bladder infection 
ever}' time I laugh or I cry, I leak." 

"That's how it starts," said Ina. "You 
better watch out. Pretty soon it will be 
me diapering you." 

"That's only fair," I said. "I'll be sure to 
call you, so I don't get just any old dope 
Social Security sends out." 

For a while neither one of us spoke. 

"Will you be able to get another job, 
Marta?" Ina suddenly asked. 

I thought for a minute about how to 
answer. I knew what the situation was 
but I wasn't sure how much I wanted to 
worry Ina with that. 

"They had somebody younger an- 
swered the ads," I said. "Right after they 
told me I didn't have enough experience 
for this kind of work." 

"orty years raising two fami- 
lies isn't the right kind of experience?" 
Ina asked. 

"Well, what do I know — go fight City 
Hall. Anyway, I've got a good man prom- 
ised to support me. So as long as he lives 
and is able to work I guess I'll be okay." 

"The next twenty-five years without 
working?" The fading sun streaked Ina's 
hair silver while she talked. "If I had 
the money that's slipped through my 
hands I'd hire you to work for me 

"If I had that kind of money myself, I'd 
quit your old job and take off for the 
countries where you've already been." 

She smiled, creasing the folds of her 
flesh. There was a long pause when she 
did nothing more than just squeeze my 
hand. "You'd better go," she said finally. 
"Go on. Scoot. I know good-byes in eight 
languages. You would be here all night." 

Even so, I urged her to let me change 
her and wash her down clean for the 
night one last time, and do her up ready 
for bed. We squeezed hands again at the 
end. That was all. 

Out in the evening, driving away from 
the trailer court, I watched the sun set on 
the Pacific over the dunes, making sort of 
sparkly little doodads on the surface of 
the water like tiny red fish scales shiver- 
ing in the night sky. !2K!o either side I 
could just make out the parched yellow 
hills with the shrub oak still dusty and 
dry before the real rains started in. I did 
not want to go home right away. I drove 
up the coast a ways to Morro bay just in 

time to watch the fishing fleet come in 
around the reef. I always thought this 
stretch of coast looked like pictures of It- 
aly I used to pore over with grand plans 
when I first married Ray. 

I parked the car near the shell shop 
and walked down to the pier to watch the 
young boys leaning over their rods and 
the old men lowering crab traps baited 
with fish heads and guts. Some tourists 
were snapping pictures of the boats, the 
boys, and the crab men. One turned her 
camera on me as I leaned in loose swea- 
ter and slacks over a rail. Local color 
were we? I was probably going to wind 
up in somebody's slide show, which I 
supposed was the only way I'd get to be 
immortalized. I badly needed a drink. I 
walked down to a little out of the way bar 
off the pier where a lot of the fishermen 
came. Some were Portuguese and spoke 
almost no English. One of the men, fish 
scales gleaming off the backs of his. 
hands, went to the juke box and put on 
some kind of Iberian beat. I downed a 
straight shot of Dewers all in one take. 
This was, I decided, as much as I was ever 
going to see of how the rest of the world 
fives. Ray probably wasn't home yet or I 
would have called him to join me. I 
thought of what it must have been like 
for Ina living in faraway countries to 
come here. If I had had another chance 
at an outing with her I might have 
brought her here to this bar, but she'd 
probably just leak out on the floor again 
right where she sat, and then I'd have 
these people mad at me, too. I was kind 
of counting on this part-time work to .; 
help give me a chance to go with Ray t0 . 
see some of the places he saw in and out 
of the war before he married me and 
gave up going to sea. XSut if Ina says 
it's all pretty much the same thing as Cali- 
fornia, maybe I shouldn't get myself so 
upset about not having enough time lclt . 
to get out past Los Perditos. 



c/jnxo typ'shiaw s.osc-1-fistj TrU-<k Mii-buy &zs a %td. 3dk of ikm And ktll and Imptwr' 

both cf ikm ert tkad. . TAey $1 ml htri b c®-ru on. iho best {fad 1 could do Jnd I'd 

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Oh, what a. pair of old. La - did ! 



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^7- thouokih(Jjnt-nrtntt,T'mMtika 

mid hurt dii-cL-omd. 3ut Lc£s hepe ihai wtm't tiro of a. dy-ino brted . 

-C^'nne Upshure was a pacifist, Frieda Weisberg was a Red. 
Both of them lived well and long; now both of them are dead. 
They left me here to earn* on the best that I could do 
And I'd like to share a bit of them with you. 

Oh, what a pair of old ladies! 

Although they never met, I'm sure they would have disagreed 

But let's hope they weren't two of a dying breed. 

Annie met a black man and, despite some people's fears, 

She lived with her dear Theodore for fifty of their years. 

She scorned organizations, but she lived Community 

Annie made the Movement her own family. 

Thumbs down to all oppression — thumb out for the open road: 

Annie in her eighties wouldn't mind the highway code — 

Arrested in Ohio; busted at the Pentagon 

For our loving friend, the struggle was all one. 


vicki rovere is a pacifist, feminist and anarchist, in 
no particular order, she helps to run peoples' voice 
cafe, a political coffeehouse in new york city. 

Frieda never married, but she had a few affairs. 

She lived for years in Greenwich Village, up two flights of stairs. 

She was a rabble-rouser, and she wasn't always kind 

'Cause she liked to give folks pieces of her mind. 

What she thought of Reagan was pure acid from her tongue. 

I like to think that righteous anger helped to keep her young. 

We'd watch the news at dinner while my stomach writhed and 


But it somehow never seemed to spoil her meal. 


52?<Tarion Wade is touring, and Faith Petric's full of song, 

Ronnie Gilbert's harmonizing — they're chugging right along. 

There's lots of others who don't sing — they march, and talk, and 


And they're plotting revolution in the night. 

We're growing a new crop of old ladies! 
It's an honor of a title I'd be proud to earn 
And I hope I last until I get my turn. 

We're growing a new crop of old ladies! 
It's a treasure of a title I'd be proud to earn 
And I mean to last until I get my turn. 



eleanor wachtel is a vancouver-based journalist , a 
member of the collective that publishes the feminist 
literary quarterly , room of one's own, and a photog- 












Canadian writing came of age about two decades ago. A con- 
junction of assorted events precipitated this new maturity: the 
country's centennial and rising nationalism, and buoyant eco- 
nomic times which made it easy for government to support writ- 
ers and small publishing houses. What was unexpected was that 
women, who conventionally constitute about twenty percent of 
whatever is being counted— representation in anthologies, lit- 
erary awards, arts juries, books reviewed, reviewers, and so 
on— rose to become what's been described as a literary matriar- 
chy. In other words, even by the prevailing literary standards, of- 


ten the best writers turned out to be female. 

The writers pictured here began writing long before this liter- 
ary coming of age. Like women in so many fields, they were of- 
ten isolated by what Judy Chicago's researchers have termed the 
"bon bon theory," where "special" women are enclosed in in- 
dividual wrappers, separated from the currents of their time. 

for us to come of age, we needed their words — and the 
words of other women writers — or our view of the world and of 
ourselves would be fundamentally distorted. Having encoun- 
tered their words, it has become difficult to return to the words 








List of authors and their major works: 

CJ orothy Livesay b. 1909 poet 

Green Pitcher, The Unquiet Bed, Plainsongs, Right Hand Left 

Hand, Ice Age, Ihe Woman I Am. 





jane Rule b. 1931 novelist 

Desert of the Heart, This is not for you, Against the Season, The 
Young in One Another's Anns, Contract with the World, Tloemes 
for Diverse Instruments, Outlander, Lesbian Images. 







dizabeth Smart 1914-1986 novelist 

By Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, Tloe Assumption 

of Rogues and Rascals, Necessary Secrets. 


<Q udrey Thomas b. 1935 novelist 

Ten Green Bottles, Mrs. Blood, Songs My Mother Taught Me, 
Blown Figures, Ladies and Escorts, Real Mothers, Latakia, Good- 
bye Harold Good Luck. 





he- \ 


un- ; 


- men. As Dale Spender said when accused of bias or exclu- 

'Onism, "1 spent the first thirty years of my life reading men, so 

, s P enc i the next thirty reading women, and then we'll talk 

ut equality. In the meantime I'm specializing in women be- 

j e ev eryone else specializes in men." 

. °°k these photographs in the course of interviewing these 

boolf S a '~ >0Ut t ' leir work lor artic ' es tracing their lives and their 
s. For me, their portraits retain the power of those 
meetings. ' ' 

£>hyllis Webb b. 1927 poet 

The Sea is also a Garden, Wilson's Bowl, The Vision Tree. 

c3 dele Wiseman b. 1928 novelist 
The Sacrifice, Crackpot. 


ram JifPs* 

HH isllk gmW ^ 

/a/'/A wilding is a feminist artistlwriterlradio pro 
ducerl teacher who lives in new york city. 


H 111111,111 

H tm mil 
H HI mil 






> '&>-^>+ : 






rVre scherer is a resident of williamsvilU, 
received her bfafrom the rhode island 
school of design and has had numerous 
collaborative exhibitions. 


rran died on March 17, 1977, four 

days after her 87th birthday. She was 
born Alice Wilding, the eldest in a family 
of eight children (in 1970 I took her 
name in order to link myself more 
closely with her). The Wildings lived in 
Ormskirk, Lancashire, in the north of 
England, and the father earned his living 
as a housepainter. At 12, Gran entered 
domestic service as a "tweeny," or "be- 
tween" maid, whose job it was to be at 
the beck and call of both kitchen and par- 
lor, and to do all the odd dirty work of 
the household. At 24 she met and mar- 
ried an off-duty seaman and persuaded 
him to get a job with the railroad so he 


^ould live with his family. For many years 
they lived in tiny rooms with very few 
amenities and an outhouse in back. In 
1915 my mother Edith was born. Her 
parents were determined to give her an 
education, no matter what scrimping 
and sacrifice this might demand. "Ede" 
won a scholarship to a teacher's college 
in Brighton. She began to teach in the 
overcrowded slum schools of the ugly 
industrial town of Widnes, and her earn- 
ings helped the family to buy a tiny de- 
tached house on the Liverpool Road just 
outside of Widnes. Though it was 
cramped and damp, this house had a real 
bathroom with modern plumbing, and 

tiny gardens in front and back. 

In 1939 life changed radically for my 
mother. During a walking holiday in 
Wales, she met a young conscientious 
objector named Harry. They became 
engaged, and she was drawn into a circle 
of friends who were opposed to the gath- 
ering war forces in Europe. In 19'i0 
Harry discovered a group of German 
pacifist refugees living in a community 
on the Cotswolds. He applied for mem- 
bership and was accepted. Soon after, he 
and my mother married and moved to 
this community — to the great dismay of 
my mother's parents. 
Their dismay turned to grief when, a 




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few months later, due to war-time harass- 
ment and internment of its German 
members, the community made the de- 
cision to emigrate to Paraguay, South 
'America. My parents went out with the 
/first contingent — there was barely 
enough time for a train-station good- 
bye—and then my grandparents were 
?left alone. In 1943, three years after the 
separation, my grandfather died of a 
/•Heart attack. Gran was bitterly convinced 
for years that the grief over losing his 
only daughter had been the chief cause 
r'ofh'is early death. 

Only three years, then, after her 
daughter's departure, Gran found her- 
self essentially childless and widowed, 
living alone on a pension in a house sud- 
denly too big for her. But she was im- 
mensely practical and social, with a love 
Sfbr life's basics: friends, weather, flowers, 
gfbod. Her many friends and their chil- 
dren became her family and she began 
to take in boarders for money, compan- 
ionship, and to satisfy her need to tend 
•Everyone loved Gran; her wit, gener- 
osity, asperity and honesty were teamed 
with a gentle heart, a touch of sentimen- 
tality, and an acute sense of life's small 
daily pleasures. As growing children in 
Paraguay, my siblings and I knew Gran 
only from our mother's picture albums 
and from the loving, awkwardly written 
letters she sent. Her simple gifts to us 
seemed exotic: store-bought clothes, 
: rose-printed birthday cards' real English 
*oes, flower-seeds, tea, biscuits and 
chocolate— and best of all, books! Over 


pars she sent me on my birthdays 
entire Flower Fairy series. In return I 
^nt her books I wrote and illustrated, 
^tercolor paintings, a carved and pol- 
led cow's-horn, book covers woven of 

In 1961 my family emigrated to the 

j e nited States, where' I soon entered col- 

8 e - My correspondence with Gran had 

never stopped, and in 1966 when I de- 
cided to take a year off from college to 
think things out, I wrote to ask if I could 
come stay with her. I received her 
guarded answer after many weeks: yes, I 
could visit a short time, but I could not 
live with her. Only much later did I fully 
appreciate the jolt my sudden request 
must have caused her. After almost thirty 
years of living alone, having seen neither 
her daughter nor her grandchildren, the 
prospect of my visit must have caused 
her a terrible mixture of joy and pain. 
Separation was easier to bear when 
clean and complete. Later she told me 
about the anger and old bitterness that 
first welled up in her when she got my 
letter, then said, "But how could I say 'no' 
to our Ede's daughter?" and added, "I'd 
forgiven her anyway, long ago." 

I left NYC in a February snow storm, — 
on my own for the first time. I was only 
one or two years older than my mother 
had been when she left home. The plane 
came in over England, moist and mild in 
light rain, the fields green and brown, ev- 
ery inch of it a cultivated garden. It was 
10 p.m. by the time I hired a taxi for the 
final leg of the journey; looking out 
through its windows, I was struck by how 
crooked and dingy all the houses looked 
in the wet lamp light. 

I was emotionally dazed, just as she 
must have been when I first saw her at 
the door with two kind friends who had 
agreed to stand vigil with her. The first 
terribly awkward moments were 
smothered by her practicality, as she 
bossily insisted on paying the cab driver, 
lecturing me all the while about tipping 
and extravagance, etc. Meanwhile, we 
stole looks at each other, shyly and hun- 
grily, not daring yet to express our con- 
fused emotions openly. She looked 
much like her pictures, except that those 
had never conveyed her height, her sur- 
prising vigor, her angular boniness, and 
the mischievous twinkle in her eye. For 
her part, she kept exclaiming over me: 
how like "our Ede" I was, yet how unlike, 
how pretty, how thin, how American my 
accent, what a lovely coat, what lovely 
luggage, etc. We were inside and alone 
by now, and fussed 'round each other, 
half-heartedly eating some stale biscuits 
and cheese and drinking burned cocoa. 
Finally, we gave up, exhausted by unex- 
pressed emotion and anticipation. "Time 
for your bed," Gran said, and led me up- 
stairs to what had been my mother's bed- 
room, though years of boarders had 
used it since. 

-£^he small downstairs parlor had 
been warm and close, but the two upper 
bedrooms and small bathroom were 
damp and icy. Gran helped me undress 
as though I was a child, fingering each 
garment curiously and folding it neatly 
upon a chair. She marveled that I insisted 
on brushing my teeth and long 1960s 
hair, then tucked me into bed and kissed 
me good-night, "God-bless." 
_^or a long time I couldn't sleep. The 
bed had an ancient lumpy mattress and 
was decidedly damp, and the threadbare 
flannel sheets had been washed and 
darned hundreds of times. I lay there 
freezing and thought about Gran. What 
kept her going all these years? How had 
she found the strength to live in this 
cheerless, lonely little house so long? 
Was she so poor that she couldn't afford 
new sheets, a proper heating system, 
good blankets? Later I was to learn that 
thrift was so deeply ingrained in Gran 
that she practiced it unconsciously, often 
denying herself things she could easily 
have afforded. After Gran's death from 
hypothermia, my mother found the 
warm nightgowns, thick blankets and 
new towels she had sent Gran over the 
years, carefully stored away in drawers, 
never used. 

I was awakened by Gran pulling the 
curtains back vigorously on a damp, grey 
day. "Time to get up, now, love. I've done 
me marketing and there's a nice egg for 
your breakfast." It was 8:30. 1 said that I 
had to have a bath first, and she handed 
me a threadbare towel with the admon- 
ishment not to use more than a few 
inches of water because "I've got me 
washing to do today." Baths presented a 
problem throughout my stay, and I had 
to compromise by washing my long hair 
in the sink. She herself washed standing 
up at the sink, and took a bath in five 
inches of tepid water every Saturday. 

While I ate the boiled egg, tea, cold 
toast and marmalade, Gran slurped at a 


cup of tea and talked away about the 
neighbors, wet weather, the minister's 
illness, politics and the latest football 
scores. Although she had only an ele- 
mentary school education, Gran had an 
intelligent, alert mind, read the paper, 
listened to the radio, and was pre- 
pared to discuss current affairs very 

Breakfast over, she announced that it 
was time to do the washing. She had set 
the clothes to soak the night before and 
now took out her "dolly" tub and 
wooden washboard. Each garment was 
vigorously scrubbed on the washboard, 
after which the whites were put in her 
boiler and the darks rinsed, put through 
a hand mangle and hung in the grey driz- 
zle outside. It would never have oc- 
curred to Gran to buy a washing 
machine or to take her wash to the laun- 
derette in town. She did the tasks of her 
household in the exact way she had done 
them for almost fifty years, heedless of 
the many labor-saving machines which 
had been invented during that time. 

~§s%*e spent most of that day talking 
as we worked about the house and took a 
walk in the rain around the rural lanes. 
Gran was as shabby as a gypsy in her old 
tweed skirt, felt hat, mackintosh and rub- 
ber boots. She pointed her nose into the 
cold drizzle, sniffed the earth-fresh air 
sharply and led me along at an incredi- 
ble pace. We walked arm in arm at her 
insistence, though she was always a pace 
ahead of me, and as we went she recited 
the history of each street, lane, tree, and 
field, describing how it had looked when 
my mother had walked with her there. A 
few times, I think she forgot who I was, 
and thought she walked again with her 
daughter at her side. We laughed a great 
deal together — she had a wicked sense 
of humor which spared no one. When 
she saw a team practicing rugby in a wet 
field, she leaned over the gate and 
started shouting to the men about their 


lousy scores at last Saturday's match, and 
as we watched them, she saucily 
mimicked a sports announcer, sending 
me into fits of laughter. 

The next day I had a chance to see how 
neatly organized and purposeful Gran's 
daily life was. We rose at 6:30 and went 
downstairs, where Gran kneeled at the 
fireplace to scrape out the ashes and 
heap fresh pieces of coke on the still 
glowing coals. The fireplace heated the 
bathwater. Then breakfast — usually just 
toast and tea and marmalade — and after- 
wards, the daily marketing round, for 
which we walked to the bus stop and 
rode into Widnes. There we shopped at 
the covered market, picking a lettuce 
here, a piece of cheese there, a mutton- 
chop for dinner, three potatoes. There 
were other errands in town: a stop at the 
post office where she paid her "rates" 
and deposited a few shillings weekly in 
savings, and a visit to the pleasant Victo- 
rian library where she dropped off and 
picked up exactly four novels a week. We 
went home to mid-day "dinner," which 
was a chop, a boiled potato and a bit of 
unadorned lettuce, followed by the inev- 
itable digestive biscuits, cheese and tea. 
After tea it was time for her daily radio 
program, during which Gran knitted fu- 
riously. The postman's call brought an in- 
vitation to Sunday dinner with Gran's 
adopted family (Gran had no tele- 
phone). After a short nap it was time to 
do some gardening, Gran's greatest pas- 
sion, although she didn't have much 
room for it in her tiny front and back gar- 
dens. At five we went to have tea with 
some of Gran's friends and came back in 
the evening to listen to the radio and chat 

On Sunday, Gran, who was a staunch 
Methodist, took me to church with her. 
She proudly introduced me to everyone 
as "my Ede's daughter" come from Amer- 
ica to see her, and added that I washed 
my hair ever)' day. After church, Gran tri- 
umphantly carried me off to dinner with 
her "family," for whose children she had 
cared and who had adopted her as their 
grandmother. We were served a huge, 
overcooked dinner in the English style, 
and throughout the meal, I was told story 
after story about all the things Gran had 
done for them. It was obvious that Gran 
was an adored and precious member of 
this family, and it made me feel im- 
mensely relieved and grateful. My own 
family had not abandoned Gran out of 
malice or neglect, but had been forced to 
leave her because of ethical and reli- 
gious calls to another kind of life. With 
wonderful human versatility Gran had 
simply made herself another family, 

which was, in many ways, much more 
akin to her beliefs and way of life than 
her biological family. 

After a week together, I announced 
that I was now ready to go to Oxford to 
live and find a job. Gran seemed both re- 
lieved and reluctant, and at the last 
minute offered that I could live with her 
for a while if I liked— making the su- 
preme sacrifice of her independence. I 
smiled through tears, thanked her and 
said that I would certainly consider it, 
should I not be able to make mv wav in 
Oxford. ' ' 

_«3Tran saw me off on the bus to the 
south of England. The morning was dark 
and drizzly. I saw the tears in her eyes as 
she kissed me quickly, and I whispered, 
"I'll come back at Easter to see you, 
Gran." I kept my promise. 

My father called me on March 17, to 
tell me Gran had died. She had been ill, 
suffering from hypothermia — the loss of 
body heat. Clinging fiercely to her inde- 
pendence, she had only been moved to a 
nursing home at the end. My mother, 
summoned from America, went to spend 
Gran's last days with her. Mother and 
daughter sang hymns together and remi- 
nisced. The room was bright with the 
garden's earliest daffodils when Gran 
died, having hung on with great will po- 
wer until her birthday. Gran had put all 
her things in order. My mother found 
carefully wrapped away all the things we 
children had ever made for Gran, and 
she had left each of us $100, a sum it was 
difficult for me to spend when I thought 
of how much comfort it could have 
bought her. But it was her way. 

_<y ran asked astonishingly little from 
life. She let it come to her in its rhythms 
and seasons. I hope I will be like her 
when I come of age, gaunt and joyous 
and vigorous, sniffing the keen wind, 
walking the muddy lanes in my old 





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• '"< aylon is a process painter and ritual artist 
'e ten-year ecofeminist ceremonial bringing to- 
. r oj women from waning nations in lebanon, 
'"■'■'■<■■■ ami japan will culminate in 1990. 

In 1980, 1 closed the studio to go down the San Andreas Fault 
Line in order to gather the sands from the trail of the earthquake 
and cover these sands with the salt I would gather from Death 
Valley — as though the salt could soothe the soreness of the 
Earth's crack like a gargle of salt water soothes a human throat 
that is scratched from screaming. 

S®.t the southern end of the quake line stood the San Onofre 
nuclear power complex thrusting its silhouettes against a stretch 
of beach which was marked with my truck prints. There were no 
bird prints or foot prints on these sands. These sands were en- 

dangered and therefore had to be gathered. Then, on the north- 
ern end of the quake line, near the Livermore Weapons Design 
Laboratory — a nuclear hamlet with numerous parking lots that 
accommodated an unknown society in the life affirming Bay 
Area, the endangered Earth was also gathered. 

Ocean sands would be the antidote poured onto the en- 
dangered sands/lands — as though the tidal regenerative force of 
the ocean could be transmitted by its very shores. 

Among the specific sand gatherings at the Pacific Ocean was 
one with pregnant women who swore on each other's stomachs 
that their unborn child would never go to war. On the first day of 
1981, mothers with infant sons gathered sand in California and 
in New York City to make this simultaneous New Year's vow — 
that their tiny male child would never go to war; in the gathering 
with mothers and their teenaged sons, the boy children were 
told of the draft so that they could begin to think about the invita- 
tion awaiting them. 

All of the quake sands and salt and endangered sands and en- 
dangered earth and dry ocean sands and damp ocean sands 
were brought to the Women's Building in San Francisco in Feb- 
ruary of 1981. 

They were potired in a ceremonial performance made from 
two levels of steep scaffolding — two women on each level, as 
500 sitting on ten tons of sand, resembling an indoor beach, 
harkened to the sounds of the pouring like a Tkiyah on the Day 
of Awe. The various sands descended and descended — grain 
rain and salt snow. Sand showers over Onofre, shore plops over 
Livermore. The four women who poured almost keeled over 
with the heavy pull of the falling sands, and the eight women 
who carried the sealed plexi frames of endangered sand/land 
walked in silence. 

"HSFhen it was time to take the ten tons of sand out of the build- 
ing, the 500 carriers knotted sacs and carried it out — their bur- 
den of survival — like refugees in the night. Composer Pauline 
Oliveros instructed them to hum "hmm" and when the load got 
too heavy, to voice "hmm-uh." Dancer Anna Halprin led the Exo- 
dus of the carriers, some of whom pulled the burden, some who 
pushed it out. Some who dragged. Some who went alone. Some 
who went with others. Some who knotted the sac with a triple 
secure knot. Some who just twisted the end and filled it fully. 
Some who filled it halfway to ease the earning. 

The metaphor touched a deep place, a longing to move 
mountains. Can the women do it? Ah. Mount St. Helens, you too 
were erupting, convulsing. You too could take no more. 

May, 1981. Gathering sand at the Pacific Ocean. On the next 
day, these sands would be brought to the Mediterranean. "Here," 
I would say to the Arab and Jewish women, if ever I found them 
in Israel. "Here are women's canvas handkerchiefs filled with 
sand, a gift from the Pacific to the Mediterranean." Each, a long 



string, two tiny bundles of sand wound on each end of the string. 
The women in Israel would wear these like open necklaces 
around the backs of their necks— the small double sacs hanging 
against their breasts, the sacs swaying slightly as they bent to 
gather stones. 

The Semite women would pair up, each one picking up two cor- 
ners of a cloth, only five feet of muslin between them, between 
each Arabic and Jewish woman. They would lay the cloth on the 
ground in one gesture, that cloth that would receive the stones 
pulled out from under, out from under. 

I imagined how they would place the stones upon their 
shared cloth. With gentle respect? No, they would probably drop 
them in frustration; an eternal Yiddish sigh might be heard: Oy, 
veyus meer. And the Arabic equivalent. 

^or six weeks I had looked for the women and for four weeks 
we had gathered for talks. I found them when I spoke at the Fem- 
inist Conference— the "Kenes." I found them in the Women's 
Centers in Haifa and Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. ("Kol Ha-eesha," the 
Voice of the Woman, had branches in all three cities— just a 
room for coffee and talk and women's books.) I spoke at WIZO 
University in Haifa and met Arab students there. I had an Arab 
neighbor. Those who were interested informed others. Hiam, 
HaYas, Chedva, Rena, Dena, Neely, Serena, Ofnan, Rivka. 

Can there be pacifism if the enemy lurks at the door? Can 
there be Shalom/Salaam if the big enemies have set up the little 
enemies for the big enemies? Can the women stop it, STOP IT, 
STOP IT, STOP IT, once and for all, for God's sake? 

On the second meeting I passed around the photographs of 
the Sand Gatherings from the lands of California, the Sand 
Carrying out of the Women's Building. Sand is holy, "ze Kadosh," 
Hayas said, her dark eyes glistening with her own light. Of 
course, it struck me that the Hebrew word "Adama" (Earth), and 
the word "Adam," (human being) have the same root. We are 
part Earth, and to Earth we return. Chedva, Rena, "Neely Hiam, 
Serena, Hayas, Layla, Denee, Amiera, Ramonda, Yona, Wafa. I will 
bring my sister. She will take her daughter. 







***** > 



>-.... J , , Ji f £■ <%-" 

'%i m 





On the third meeting, we talked above the sound of speeding 
cars in the hills of yore. Now Hiam showed me photographs. 
They were the ones she took of her sisters' Arabic weddings. "I, 
myself, will never marry," and I questioned why, holding her 
hand until she could answer. 

"My sisters had to remove their pubic hair on their wedding 
day to appear more virginal to the groom. My own mother had to 
make the concoction, sticky as molasses. It hurt so." She saw me 
cringe, another woman. At that moment, the last thing she cared 
about was that I was Jewish. "You know, footbinding and cli- 
torectomies were also executed by mothers who do not realized 
they do the work of the patriarchy," I said. "Just like here," she 
nodded. And we knew our common ground was feminism. 

And so it came to pass that two by two, one Arabic and one 
Jewish woman did struggle to pull out stones from the dry crust 
of the Earth at Vadi Salib in July of 1981. They did pull until their 
hands became moist from the Earth beneath the crust. 

"These stones were here before the Jew, before the Arab," 
Hiam noted. 

then their hands would meet as they tied the corners of the 
cloth together in double knots. And when they lifted the sac to 
bring it to the center of the archway, the stones did make a sound 
from within, clanging. A ten-year-old Jewish daughter and a 
twelve-year-old Arab daughter giggled at the solemnity of their 
mothers. "Do one yourselves!" Neely suggested to her daughter. 
And so it came to pass that the daughters of Sarah and the daugh- 
ters of Hagar followed their mothers and their little brothers 
joined them gleefully, handing them the stones. At the end of the 
Gathering, the deserted village had two sacs of stones in every 

"Let us leave these sacs for the police to find," Chedva sug- 
gested. "They will think these are bombs, and when they pull 
apart the knots and look inside, they will discover women's 

ffor a second, I thought as an artist. In other performance cere- 
monials the artifact remains as art object. But Chedva's sugges- 
tion was perfect for the intent of this piece. "Yes Chedva, let's 
leave them here as they are and all go to the nearest cafe." 



-OMMENTARY: This all has to do 
with her faith in the Christian ethic that 
man must make God present on earth, 
that man is responsible for making the 
will of God known to all men. 

This all has to do with interpretation. 

This has to do with her interpretation 
of her difference and with her schizo- 
phrenic existence in two worlds: in a 
black world where she is an asset to her 
race, and in a white world where she is 
an asset to her race. 

Lorna is a child. 

Lord, she is not worthy. Lord, she is not 
worthy. Make her an instrument of truth, 
so that she may know more clearly, fol- 
low more nearly, love more dearly, day 
by day. God loves a cheerful giver. 

"%/^ERSICLES: She is nine years old, 
and her father decides that she isn't 
learning to read well enough at the 
public school around the corner from 
their house. 

The minister at St. George's Church 
tells Oliver that since there are Episcopa- 
lian day schools, and that since he is a 
member in good standing of the Episco- 
palian church, Oliver should be able to 
swing a scholarship for his bright little 
daughter, Lorna. 

After Lorna and her parents have an in- 
terview with the headmaster, and he 
compliments the child on her good 
handwriting, she is admitted to the 
school. Her mother works in house- 
keeping for a big Fifth Avenue depart- 


ment store. Her mother gets an 
employee discount on any merchandise 
bought in the store. Her mother buys her 
some new clothes because Lorna is go- 
ing to St. Luke's School down in 
Greenwich Village in New York City. 

It's been a few years now since Presi- 
dent Truman desegregated the U.S. 
Armed Forces, so there is no reason why 
the daughter of a black Episcopalian 
West Indian family should not be admit- 
ted to an all-white Christian school. 

-OMMENTARY Things converge so 
that she is the medium through which 
experience expresses itself. She is too 
young to articulate details in such a way 
that their order gives meaning to exist- 
ence. She has no power over abstract 
concepts that have been created to justify 
certain kinds of behavior. She celebrates 
small epiphanies in her heart and knows 
that God is eminently situated to put in 
an appearance at any time in any place. 

^V^ERSICLES: It is 1956, two years af- 
ter the landmark Supreme Court deci- 
sion on segregation. Lorna's mother 
sends her little brown-skinned girl to the 
hairdresser once a month to have the 
child's hair washed and pressed. When 
the girl's hair is ironed out and free from 
naps and tangles, her braids are long and 
hang halfway down her back. 

The hairdressers in the beauty parlor 
think she is a beautiful child. They argue 
over the right words that best describe 
the color of her skin: pumpkin, but 

darker than pumpkin, with a copper tint 
to it, more like a raw sienna flushed with 
gold. Put some silver and turquoise on 
her and she looks like an Indian. Pure In- 
dian with her hair all pressed straight 
and shiny. 

<Z^ OMMENTARY: Do unto others as 
you would have them do unto you. Turn 
the other cheek. Forgive them because " 
they don't know what they do. Sticks and 
stones can hurt, but words can't harm, 
omissions are not wrong. 

Oh God, I love you. 

Oh God, I give myself to you today. 

Oh God, I ask you to help me today. 

"V^ERSICLES: White buckskin shoes 
and bobby sox are in style along with 
dancing to "Tutti Frutti." Allen Ginsberg 
is writing HOWL, and everyone in 
Greenwich Village plays the guitar and 
dresses in black. Rock'n'roll is being' 
born and Chuck Berry is singing "Good 
Golly Miss Molly." 

Little.Lorna is the only colored child in 
her class. Diedra isn't colored, although 
she is as brown-skinned as Lorna. Diedra 
is Hawaiian, and nobody would ever say 
she is a colored or a Negro. Marie is 
much more fair complected than both 
Lorna and Diedra, but nobody says shes 
not white, even though she has really 
kinky hair. Marie's father is a white 

The children don't think much about 
racism, except that Megan is having a 
birthday party, and since she's inviting 


"S < 






* Oar 







DCS i 


ind i 
ing 'i 



say ' 






only white boys, she has 10 invite only 
white girls, even though Lorna is her 
Sjrjend, even though Lorna was the only 
one to stand by her when everybody else 
in the class was calling her a monkey be- 
cause she has so much hair on her arms. 
^ When Megan tells Lorna that she can't 
come to the party, Lorna wants to cry, but 
-holds back her tears because she doesn't 
want all of these white Christian children 
to see that she is wounded. They already 
know that she is different. 
.COMMENTARY: Questions start 
coming to her mind about why some 
-people are included in the warm friend- 
ship circle of a group of girls skipping 
rope in the schoolyard at recess. What 
makes some people acceptable and oth- 
ers not? Who decides this? There are the 
haves and the have-nots. Everybody has 
something of his own. Aren't we all chil- 
dren of God? Why do the have-nots want 
'•• what belongs to the haves? Enw and 
treachery grow in the hearts of those 
who have nothing else to plant there. 

'V'ERSICLES: The headmaster of the 
school tells all the children at morning 

, prayer that bravery is something that is 
required of all truly Christian people. 
Lorna is in love with the idea of bei ng a 

• devout Christian person. She wants a 

' Wss tattooed on her chest. Every mar- 
'Tf.she is told, has undergone some kind 
.^suffering. She wants to know God and 
7 h ™ talk to her. With her roller- 
J^es on, she sits under the big nee in 
«*of the school and tries to still all the 

' ,„ T8 going on inside her head, but she 
^V the voice of God. 

<w- af . erschoc)1 and most oflhe chi| - 

,U1 m her class are inside the rectory 

for catechism in preparation for their 
confirmation, that day when the bishop 
comes to the parish church and lays his 
hands on the heads of those who are to 
be initiated. After that happens, you are 
allowed to take holy communion with 
the adults. You become a full-fledged 
member of the Episcopalian church, and 
your name gets written down in the 
ledger of the parish in which you are 

Her parents have noticed a change in 
her since she started going to the new 
school. She has become distant. They 
don't want to lose touch with their only 
child. They don't want her to forget that 
she is a colored child, even though she 
spends most of her days in an all-white 
world. They don't want her confirmed in 
the white church. They don't want her 
name written in the ledger book of St. 
Luke's Church. 

Lorna wants to be part of that warm 
circle of children at school who learn 
their catechism and are treated to cocoa 
and doughnuts afterwards. She wants 
her classmates to see that the same 
bishop who will put his hands on their 
heads will put his hands on hers. Then 
they can all go to the communion rail 
and share in the holy supper. 

On Saturday afternoons her father 
puts her on the number fifty-two bus that 
stops in front of St. George's Church on 
the corner of Marcy and Gates Avenues 
in Brooklyn. It is an Episcopalian church 
with a large black West Indian congrega- 
tion. St. George was the hero who slew 
the dragon. She goes there for religious 
instruction in preparation for her 

The other children there all seem to 
know each other. She is a stranger. She 
doesn't want to memorize the Ten Com- 
mandments. She wants to read Alice in 
Wonderland. Little girls whisper behind 
her back that she is stuck up because she 
has a scholarship to a white school. They 
all go to public school. They pull her 
braids and pinch her on the sly when the 
priest isn't looking. They hide her coat 
behind one of the radiators in the parish 
hall. She finds it wrinkled and dirty. She 
knows her mother will scold her for get- 
ting it messed up. She know her mother 
will cross-examine her about how it hap- 
pened, but Lorna vows to say nothing. 

She is standing in front of the church 
waiting for the bus to take her home. A 
group of the girls from the confirmation 
class come along and try to start a fight 
with her. She has no reason to fight with 
them. They call her names and tell her 
they think that she acts like she's better 
than they are. They tell her just because 
her braids are long and straight is no rea- 
son to be so uppity in her manners. One 
of these girls, a big, black, ugly one, has 
scissors and cuts Lorna 's braids while the 
other girls hold her. The ugly girl throws 
the hair in the gutter, then all the girls 
run away, leaving Lorna alone, still wait- 
ing for the bus. She knows there will re- 
ally be hell to pay now when she gets 
home. Her parents have spent a lot of 
money over the years sending her 
to the hairdresser, but she doesn't cry. 
She is brave. 

lois griff ith has written plays that were produced at 
the nuyotican theatre festival, the public theatre and 
theatre for the new city, she's currently at work on an 
novel, accomplices. 


f* az3 5=5 e; b-»«j - 




I am the smug fulfillment of light-years of dogged morphogenesis. Why can we see 

170,000 years back, on the cosmological stage, the star bursting its heavy metal now 

NOW! See how bright! Immensities of space like a lens, a magic lantern through the 

eons. But here, so close, under our very nose— Olduvai, Choukoutien, Les Eyzies. We 

see nothing but the infinitesimal remnant, if lucky, not then but now— a petrified femur 

skull fragment like a piece of eggshell tinted by acid soil and preserved in a stratum like 

an Easter treasure. 

"WWho is the lucky finder? A jubilant paleontologist or a bulldozer? 

All that sleuthing! These old bone shards are not loquacious. But our mind reels out a 

silver cord over the vast distances of linked chromosomes, like a chain, "we are the 

world," hand in hand, brain to brain, putting back the vertebrae, the molars, the sockets 

Ming in the cartilage, dressing the wounds. 

g^lesh is squirted into the tentative skeletons like shampoo mousse, lightly. Sketching 

silhouettes with overhanging brows, but erect, walking, one two, striding with their 

bare feet leaving us a precious print in the tacky lava bed. 

170,000 years. Most of them B.C., of course. 

We were "wise" then, they tell us, but not "wise wise" as we later became. 

It was us but without history. We had no past, no future. We attended to the present— a 

neat trick if you can do it and most of us have forgotten how. 

We already had all our marbles, idling there, and for an eternity of Time, there was no 


What was Time then? 

The Time it didn't rain. 

The Time of the Big River Fight. 

The Time all the babies died. The Time the Great Mother shook with anger. 

And then tales. And the gestures. And then dance. 

The Great Events. 

But not progressive, cumulative, I don't think. Not for a long time. 

But one day it happened. 

If"mow did it creep up on us? One day there were beads, and body paint, and carved 

ivory, and counting moons, and flower burials, and anthropophagy was magic. We 

turned around and it was everywhere, every which way. And Time took on a linearity 

with the new evidence. Like: the time before and since tailored clothes; like before and 

after Magdelenian shafts; and the time when people didn't yet paint spirits on the rocks, 

and now, our caverns ablaze with the captured spirits frozen in mid-gallop 

SSOSnd then we knew we were no longer beasts. 

For we, alone among all creatures, could trap an animal spirit and imprison it in a flat 

image, animated and fleshed out by our perceptual skills until we saw, not ochre on 

granite surface but the sinews, bristle and hooves of the thundering, fleeing prey, our 

Mother Bison, our teacher, our life. 

And our foreheads were high, flat, clean, childlike and deadly. 
























*}til it' 

julia aharez is a writer who lives in newyork city. 

■'■<Xtf?hen we were growing up, my 
cousin Ique and I were inseparable. Ev- 
eryone in the family was paired up with a 
best friend in the family. My older sister 
Mariana and my cousin Lucinda, the two 
oldest cousins, had a giggly, gossipy girl 
friendship that made everyone feel left 
out. My younger sister Elsa and my 
sweet-natured cousin Teresita were eve- 
ryone's favorites, a helpful little pair, 
good for errands, turning jumpropes, 
. and being captured when the large com- 
munal yard we played in was trans- 
formed into the old west by cowboy Ique 
and cowgirl me. We galloped our invisi- 
ble palominos past all the hands that 
were trying to hold us. 

As we grew older, Mother and my 
aunts tried to encourage a separation be- 
tween us. The extended family lived side 
byside in neighboring houses on a piece 
of property which belonged to my 
grandparents. There was no keeping 
anyone from anyone else. When one 
, cousin caught the measles or mumps, we 
were all quarantined together to get that 
childhood illness over and done with. 
. 'Que and I lived in each other's houses, 
-Staying for meals at whatever table we 
we closest to when dinner was put out, 
8°mg home only to take our baths and 
80 to bed or to get punished when the 
jeport reached our mothers' ears that Ju- 
13 and Ique had shattered Aunt Titi's 
• ptal- ball garden decoration with their 
JJngshots. ("That's a lie," we defended 
"pelves, "we broke it with the rake, trv- 
. J to knock down some guavas!") Or 

at Julia and Ique had used Luanda's 
. ra Sana's nail polish to paint blood 

on their wounds. Or that Julia and Ique 
had tied up sister Elsa and tiny cousin 
Teresita to the water tower near the 
maids' shacks at the back of the property 
and forgotten them there. 

Beyond those shacks, through a guava 
orchard Aunt Titi had planted, lived my 
grandparents, in a great big house we 
went to for Sunday dinners whenever 
they were home. Mostly, they were far 
away in New York City, where my grand- 
mother was always recuperating from 
some illness or other under the supervi- 
sion of expensive specialists. The ill- 
nesses — so the underground family 
gossip went — were caused by the fact 
that Mamita had been a very beautiful 
young woman, and she had never fully 
recovered from losing her looks. My 
grandfather, whom everyone called a 
saint, pampered her in everything and 
tolerated her willfulness, so that the say- 
ing among the family was that Papito was 
so good, "he peed holy water." Mamita 
was furious at hearing her husband 
canonized at her expense, and she took 
her revenge, bringing home a large jar of 
holy water from the cathedral with the 
explanation that she liked having it 
around the house in case of spiritual 
emergencies. Since she was not in the 
least bit religious, the family grew 

One Sunday during the weekly family 
dinner, Mother caught Mamita preparing 
my grandfather's whiskey and water with 
holy water from the jar. "Damn it!" my 
grandmother gloated. "You all say he 
pees holy water, well he's been peeing it 
all right!" 

In New York, my grandfather devel- 
oped stomach ailments and from then 
on all the foods in the world were di- 
vided into those which agreed and those 
which did not agree with him. My grand- 
mother supervised this menu reli- 
giously, feeling perhaps guilty about 
earlier things she had run through his 

^P^-Tien they did return from their 
New York City trips, Mamita brought 
back duffle bags full of toys for her 
grandchildren. Once she honored me 
with a magnificent noisy drum and once 
with a watercolor set and paintbrushes 
of different thicknesses for expressing 
the grand and fine things in the world. 
My American cowgirl outfit was an exact 
duplicate — except for the skirt — of 
Ique's cowboy one. 

My mother disapproved. The outfit 
would only encourage my playing with 
Ique and the boys. It was high time I got 
over my tomboy phase and started acting 
like a young lady. "But it is for girls," I 
pointed out. "Boys don't wear skirts." 
Mamita threw her head back and 
laughed. "This one is no fool. She's as 
smart as her Aunt Titi even if she doesn't 
get it from books." 

On her latest trip to New York City, my 
grandmother had taken her unmarried 
daughter Titi along. Titi was known as 
"the genius in the family" because she 
read books and knew Latin and had at- 
tended an American college for two 
years before my grandparents pulled her 
out because too much education might 
spoil her for marriage. The two years 
seemed to have done sufficient harm, 



however, for at twenty-eight, Titi was an 
"old maid." 

"The day Titi marries, cows will fly," we 
cousins teased. I did not think any less of 
my aunt for being single. In fact, as a tom- 
boy, I had every intention of following in 
her footsteps. But Titi used her free time 
so poorly, she might as well have been 
married. She read and read, and for 
breaks, she tended an incredible Eden of 
a garden, then read again. 

"She reads tons and tons of books!" My 
mother rolled her eyes, for her sister's 
accomplishments could only be mea- 
sured by weight, not specifics. Poor, 
helpful Titi. I hoped soon she'd be able 
to rope someone into marrying her. I 
was not in the least bit interested in ac- 
quiring a new uncle or in wearing a 
dress for the occasion, but it would be 
worth putting up with both inconven- 
iences to see a cow fly. 

^SLs we cousins feared, Mamita came 
back from this latest trip with my Aunt 
Titi's idea of fun. Instead of the usual 
oversized, cheap, gaudy, noisemaking, 
spoiling-your-clothes, wasting-your- 
mind toys, that duffle bag was lined with 
school supplies and flashcards and 
workbooks and puzzle-size boxes 
whose covers boasted: MASTERING ARA- 

dj/'iS mong the Gros Ventes, the word 
for a woman's bleeding is power, 
I will not need to brood 
over that much longer, 
and if I wereaLakota 
— one hundred years ago? 
no, two hundred — woman, 
before the white man came, 
before his roads crossed ours, 
— if J ueivilui \\ I 
woulclsoon hi- alltnu-d in Ugin 
my own vision quest: the young 
man's privilege. As I left 
the long black road ol i/wi\o:ir 
else's lives, as 1 looked 
to the veiy edge ot the four 
•—Vfc^oly direct ii >ns. and u >ok 
the red road north. 1 could 
chant ilii-iwownaN tor power 

None of the men do that. 

Nutc-v Tin.- or. j. Vi.-ntL-- .in- .1 Ldv <\.\ irilv . ,1' ilu.- 
Northern Plains. The black and red roads are those 
of life and its troubles and the spirit, respectively 

SAY Ique and I exchanged a grim biting- 
the-bullet look as our gifts were handed 
to us. 

I got a book of stories in English I 
could barely read, with interesting pic- 
tures, though, of a girl in a bra and long 
slip with a little cap on her head that had 
a tassel dangling down. "That's Schehera- 
zade," Titi explained. "She's telling the 
sultan one of her thousand stories to 
keep herself alive." I knew, of course, 
that the book was meant to encourage 
me to read, just as I had been sent to the 
American school in hopes that they 
might make a scholar out of me. In a 
world full of interesting people and all 
kinds of interesting. things, to sit down 
and read about them rather than experi- 
ence them! No one could convince me 
that that was a smart thing to do. 

Ique fared much better, I thought, 
with a see-through doll, whose top half 
lifted off, and inside were blue and pink 
and light brown tubes and coils and odd- 
shaped pellets which all fit snugly to- 
gether like a puzzle. Titi explained the 
toy was called THE HUMAN BODY She 
had picked it out for Ique because re- 
cently, in one of those after-dinner ses- 
sions in which aunts and uncles polled 
the children on what they were planning 
to do with themselves when they grew 
up, Ique had expressed an interest in the 
medical profession. Everyone ' thought 
that was very good of him and proved he 
had a good heart after all, but Ique had 
confided in me later that he was mostly 
interested in giving needles and cutting 
people open on the operating table. 

We examined the Human Body doll 
while Titi read out loud from a little 
booklet that came with it about the dif- 
ferent organs and what each was good 
for. After we'd learned to put them to- 
gether so the heart wasn't tangled in the 
intestines and the lungs didn't face the 
spine, Ique began to grumble. "A doll, 
why'd she get me a stupid doll?" 

I disliked them too, but this doll was 
better than a reading book and you 
could own it with self-respect, seeing as 
it was a boy with guts. But I was surprised 
that along with his other organs, this boy 
didn't have what in those days I called "a 
pe-er." I'd seen them on little naked beg- 
gar boys at the market and once on the 
same grandfather who peed holy water 
when I walked in on him in the bath- 
room ministering to his need. But this 
doll was as smooth between his legs as a 
baby girl. 

Mamita, who yearned for her youth 
again, must have remembered what it 
was like to be young and dumb and fun- 

loving. She had snuck back for Us __ 

when Titi's back was turned lii t i^'- ; 

nonsense presents. I got a paddle with a - 
little ball attached on an elastic string 
which I whacked and whammed as if 1 
were my reading book, and Ique got a- 
big packet of bright pink modeling clay 
At first, neither of us knew what the 
packet was. My cousin's eyes blazed like 

shiny coins. "Bubble gum !" he cried out 
But my grandmother explained that no 
this was a new kind of modeling clay that 
was easy to work with. She demon- 
strated. Pulling off a handful, she molded 
a ball, bunched little ears side by side 
dotted two eyes with a bobby pin she 
took out of her hair and finished it off 
with a tiny ball of a tail. She held her 
hand out to me. 

"Ah," I cried, for in her palm was the 
likeness of a tiny rabbit. 

But Ique was not impressed. Bunny or 
not, he still could not blow bubbles 
with it. 

hen the. rabbit was rolled back 
into a pink ball in Grandmother's palm. 
Next came a small basket with a braided 
handle in which you could actually in- 
sert a penny, and then a many-petaled 
flower, not one you'd ever seen in Titi's 
garden. I marveled at this pink clay At 
school, the clay was gray and tough to 
handle. This must have been the very 
stuff God had used to make people in the 
Garden of Eden, or how else could He 
have worked the fine detail of earlobes 
and eyelids and newborn babies' 

All morning, I tagged behind Ique, im- 
ploring him to trade me that packet of 
clay. But he was not in the least hit 
tempted by my reading book, though he 
did linger a moment over the pictures of 
the girl in her underwear before hand- 
ing the book back. My paddle ball was no 
good to him either. He was liable to ruin 
his batting swing by striking at a little 
jacks ball. "A girl's ball," he called it. 

At that, I drew myself up with 
wounded pride and strode off to "our ' 
side of the property. Ique followed me 
through a path in the hedges and then 
lingered by my side as I sat on a patio 
lawn chair pretending great interest in 
my book. He paced by me several times, 
tossing his big ball of clay from hand to 
hand like a baseball. "What nice clay,' he 
observed. "Very nice clay." I kept my eyes 
on my book. 

A strange thing began to happen. I ac- 
tually became interested in those dark, 
dense paragraphs of print. The story was 
not half bad: Once upon a time, a sultan 
was killing all the girls in his kingdom, 



i! a 



!Ul. i 

off I 



[At .■ 





bit ; 


, eca pitating them, running swords 
' C r0 ' u gh them, hanging them. Hut Sche- 
[Vazade, the girl pictured in her bra and 
IV had escaped the sultan's sword be- 
t^se she had been reading in her la- 

librarv thousands of books on 
and science and arithmetic and 

:. history - 

geography. She was smarter than anyone 
,i e j n the whole kingdom and could re- 
cite verses and say jokes and sayings and 
figure out riddles so that everyone was 
enchanted and entertained by her pres- 
ence. She'd gotten so smart that when at 
list she was captured by the sultan, she 
figured out a way to trick him. Just as he 
was about to cut off her head, she asked 
him if he wouldn't like to hear a story be- 
fore she died. The sultan agreed and 
gave her until dawn. But when the sun 
•rose, Scheherazade hadn't yet finished 
'her fascinating story. "I guess it's time to 
die," she interrupted herself. "Too bad. 
- The ending is very good." 
^: "By Allah," the sultan swore. "You're 
"•not dving until 1 hear the rest of the 
And this went on for a thousand and 
■ ;one nights of storytelling until the sultan 
vjiad fallen head over heels in love with 
Scheherazade on account of her stories. 
sHe swore never to kill another woman 
It A shadow fell across the page 1 was 
^reading. I glanced up, keeping my place 
ym the text with an index finger. I would 
have given my cousin a dirty look and 
S gone on with my reading if it hadn't been 
«for the magnificent creature he had 
created. He must have rolled all of the 
clay into one long pink coil and looped it 



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ic' : " 

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C: ••/'.' 



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ferf -^ 


once, twice around his shoulders like a 
circus performer's boa. Raising his chin, 
he passed within inches of me, through 
the hedges to his own side of the large 
yard. I knew he was ready to negotiate. I 
set my book face down on the chair and 
followed after him. 

But beyond the hedge, Ique had run 
into a captive audience. Little sister Elsa 
and Teresita watched while Ique 
wrapped the snake around and around 
his neck, rolled his eyes, and made awful 
throwing-up sounds. "Help! Help!" he 
cried. "I'm being strangled — Ugh!" 

In a panic, little Teresita reached out to 
rescue her older brother. But just then, 
Ique unwound one end and poked it at 
her. The small girl screamed and scam- 
pered across the yard with Ique at her 
heels, dangling the snake before him. 
They crossed the patio of their house, 
and then Teresita fled indoors. In a 
minute, we could hear Ique's mother 
calling out, "Manuel Enrique Rodriguez 
Tavares!" But Ique fled out of view of the 
house to where my sister and I stood 

As soon as Teresita was safely indoors, 
Elsa, who could not be long without her 
other half, headed towards the house. 
Ique blocked her path. He pinched off a 
bit of clay from the coil in his hands. 
"Want some?" he offered. 

I was beside myself. He wouldn't even 
trade with me, his best buddy, and here 
he was giving it away to a little sister for 
nothing. "No fair!" I cried, hurrying to- 
wards him and pushing little Elsa aside. 

"Okay, okay." He motioned for me to 
lower my voice. He wadded the snake 

back into a ball and held it out to me. 
"Trade you." My heart soared. I began 
bargaining indiscriminately. At last, he 
asked, "You got any gum?" 
-W shook my head. Now I saw what 
worm had been gnawing at him all 
morning. He had never recovered from 
the clay not being the Bazooka he had set 
his heart on. His desire was as deep as 
mine for his clay, and I knew I would 
have to satisfy it in order to get that clay. 

I made one last desperate offer. "You 
can have anything you want." 

Ique considered for a moment. A dirty 
little smile spread across his lips. It was a 
like a liquid spilling and staining some- 
thing it mustn't. "Anything?" I nodded. 
He lowered his voice. "Show me you're 
a girl?" 

"Huh?" I said. 

His eyes came to rest on the lap of my 
cowboy skirt. "You know," he urged. I 
shook my head. "Pull down your panties, 
that's how," he explained. 

I looked around, stalling. My eyes fell 
on little Elsa, who was following the 
transaction closely. "Here?" 

He jerked his head, indicating the 
back of the property where there was a 
deserted chicken coop. I followed, turn- 
ing every so often and glowering at Elsa. 
At the door of the shed I gave her a little 
push to go away. 

"Oh, let her in," Ique argued. "She'll 
go tell." 

"I'll tell," Elsa agreed. 

I wanted to pounce on her right then 
and there, but I didn't dare ruin my 
chances at acquiring the packet of clay. 
Instead, I narrowed my eyes and gave 

■• : '".'- ««:;.. 


ij tiyiii 


^M„ -„ 





her little knowing nods before entering 
the shed. I'll get you later, Little Sister! 
the nods said. Just you wait. 

It was dark and damp inside. A faint 
light fell through the dirty wire-mesh 
windows. The air smelled of rich black 
soil brought down from the mountains 
to make Aunt Titi's giant ferns grow tall. 
In a corner, hoses lay coiled like a family 
of dormant snakes. 

Elsa and I lined up against a far wall. 
Ique faced us, his hands nervously 
worked the ball of clay into a rounder 
and rounder ball. "Go on," he said. "Take 
them down." 

Immediately, little Elsa pulled down 
her pants and panties in one wad to her 
hips, exposing what she thought was in 
question, her belly button. But I was 
older and knew better. 

"Go on," Ique ordered impatiently. By 
now, Elsa had caught on and lowered 
her pants and panties to her ankles. I 
gave my cousin a proud, defiant look as I 
lifted up my cowboy skirt, tucked it un- 
der my chin, and yanked my panties 
down. I steeled myself against his intru- 
sive glances. But all Ique did was shrug 
his shoulders with disappointment. 
"You're just like dolls," he observed and 
divided his ball of clay equally between 
Elsa and me. 

I was dressed in a minute and lit into 
him. "You promised me the clay!" I cried. 

poem, page SO: sally alien mcnall has lived and 
travelled on the great plains since 1976. she 
teaches writing and american literature at 
the university ofkansas. 

"You let her come along, but you didn't 
say she'd be part of the deal." 

Ique tried hushing my angry yelling. 
He reached over to take back Elsita's half, 
but she too started bawling. "Come on, 
please," he pleaded with me. "Please. I'll 
let you have my Human Body doll, 

I considered a moment, then nodded, 
and he fled out of the shed in search of 
his toy. 

Elsa sniffled as she patted her half into 
a small clay ball. She looked over at the 
half in my hands and asked, "How much 
you got?" 

I glared at Elsa. She was still standing 
in a puddle of fabric at her ankles. She 
had a smear of breakfast egg on her chin 
and the blurry eyes of someone who has 
just stopped crying. I reached over and 
pulled her pants back up. She swayed 
with the force of my lifting. "How much 
you got?" she persisted. In her eyes was a 
gleam of material interest I hadn't no- 
ticed before. 

I held up my half to hers. "Same as 
you, Silly." 

aSfoon after this pink clay incident, 
Ique and the boys were settling teams for 
a baseball game. There was an odd num- 
ber of boys in the family, so I usually was 
picked up at the end to round out the 
Today, there was an even number of 

cynthia smith is an artist living in Vancouver, brit- 
ish Columbia, she has an mfa from the Maryland in- 
stitute, college of art in baltimore, md. 

boy^-one or another cousin w as h " 
with a fever, a sure sign we'd all be be J 
ridden within the week. Back and for*" 
Captain Ique and Captain Jongi selected 
from best to worst of the boy players , 
til only I was left. yP la >er.s,un- 

"hat about me?" I reminded Iq ue 
sure he d make a case for me. After all i 
was a good hitter, an excellent catcher 
and had strong lungs for cheering on m 
team. Ique hesitated, and the groun 
sensed his divided loyalties A laree 
number than usual echoed that first crv 
of "Girls! We don't want to play with stu 
pid girls." 

I looked at Ique, my eyes pleading 
with him, but he merely shrugged and 
held his empty hands out, palms up 

Off they went, even-Stevens, not' one 
longing or repentant look over his 
shoulder from my cousin Ique. I stood 
awhile in that yard, around the bend 
from where the group was plaving, so I 
could not see the progress of their game 
or have my tears remarked. I heard 
scores being shouted; one or another 
player urged to strike or not strike. I 
wanted to wreak a terrible revenge on 
boys, and especially on my cousin Ique. 
But I could think of nothing that would 
equal the pain I felt at that moment. I 
turned towards the house, looking for 
someone sympathetic who might listen 
to my side of the story. 

_-.__ ■ * >j 

re : K?5R?Sft?riS53B<'- ; -^ - 
"C^^ii.'-^.ty*?^ * ■-■■ . 


kalie singer is a writer in residence at south boston 
bish school and editor of mosaic, an annual antho- 
logy of her students' stories and photographs. 


We are four women soaking 

in my great grandmother's pot: Mom, 

my grandmother's sister Sadie, Sadie's daughter Ellen, me. 

Everyone is sauce: butter, diced onion, warm 

milk. We are sleeping in our own 

breasts. Nothing will curdle. 

This milk is translucent 



as amniotic fluid. I see Gramma Esther 
and Great-Gramma Katie 
staring at us like raw meat. 
They think we are too tender. 
Esther raises the flame. Her mother 
cuts each woman into chunks, helping 
us to get done. Get 

done. Blood dyes 

the milk. My great-grandmother's 

knife cuts through cartilage, scrapes the pot. 

I keep my nose high to breathe. 

My tongue is in locked lips. 

I think 

I want my body back. Heart, 

feet, hips, I move toward sizzling 

parts. Breasts, fingers, 

fists. Sadie and my mother want to kill 

each other. Sadie wants 

to get out of the pot. My mother tells me 

there's nothing for us 

to say to each other. I ask Ellen to come close. 

She brings blank paper 

and pens, and the diamond from her mother's wedding 

ring. She pierces her own head. Sadie 

is dead now too. Only my mother 

and I are left, her grandmother and mine still 

looking in. I figure this is love. 

Great Gramma Katie nods, takes her knife 

away. She tells her daughter, my grandmother, to turn 

down the flame. My mother sees the burns 

on my face, feels sick, turns away. I turn 

to Katie and Esther. Katie scoops my head 

onto the blade of her knife, takes me 

to my body and says, "There's nothing to do 

about mixed blood." 





This piece is based on an interview be- 
tween Maria Meneses and Avis Lang 
taped in New York City in June 1987. Si- 
multaneous translation is by Gloria Na- 
zario and Yadira Ortiz, with additional 
translation by Thiago de Mello and as- 
sistance from Marta Meneses-Avelar. 

I was born in 1933 and brought up 
near La India mines in central Nicaragua, 
in the Department of Leon. The mines 
were the property of North Americans, it 
was a small town; everybody knew each 
other and everybody understood what 
was going on. The life I lived there was 
an important factor, a determinant of my 
political awareness of Nicaragua as a 
whole, because in seeing the injustices 
and the poverty I saw as a girl, I came to 
understand much later — between thirty- 
eight and forty years of age — that there 
were profound political reasons for this, 
that it was a necessity for the government 
to keep people under conditions of pov- 
erty in order to control them. 

The workers in the mines made only 
three cordobas a day, which at that time 
was like five cents. JYfty father was not a 
miner, but one of my uncles was. I saw a 
lot of people sick with silicosis, their 
lungs almost covered by dirt and dust. 
Every time one of these miners died, 
some money was given to the family as a 
pension, but half of it went to Somoza. I 
never understood the reason that hap-. 
pened— why half went to Somoza and. 
the other half to the miner's family 

There was a lot of poverty for the ma- 
jority of the miners' children, and the 
only moments of happi ness were during 
Christmas. Sometimes the North Amen- 






LO tJP ■%. ^ E S» 

can bosses would have parties for the 
children and give them presents. But it 
wasn't any luxury they were being given; 
fit was toys made by the carpenters of 
their own factories — a present from the 
people back to their own people. 

The school in my town had only first 
and second grades, so I was taken to 
Leon, where an aunt of mine lived, in or- 
Vder to continue my education. A lot of 
the children couldn't go to school, be- 
cause the parents were ignorant or 
jdidn't have the resources to buy clothes 
vfor the children so that they could send 
them. But my own mother did under- 
stand that by having an education I 
would be better off. She didn't want me 
to be just a housekeeper like herself. She 
always wanted me to learn a skill that 
eventually would permit me to have a 
dife that was a little more decent. 

So at the age of fifteen I became a 
dressmaker. I began learning the skill at 
fourteen, and the next year I started mak- 
ing my own living. At eighteen I got mar- 
fried and my husband and I went to 
•Managua, where I worked in a private 
shop owned by a rich family, though I 
also worked in a more familiar shop in 
my own neighborhood in the evenings. 
The clothes were made for the rich peo- 
ple, and while working in that environ- 
ment I began to listen to these ladies' 
conversations and heard everything they 
would discuss about the workers. 

Living in Managua in a poor marginal 
Mrrio during 1967-68 after all my chil- 
dren had been born, I began to integrate 
myself into the community of San Pablo 
Apostol. We would meet there in a clan- 
estme way to discuss politics; some 
Priests from Spain had arrived to begin 
forking with people at the grass-roots 

level within the church. However, this 
experiment in the parish came to the 
knowledge of Monsignor Obando y 
Bravo, who then tried to expel these 
priests from the country. 

I learned a lot of things by being part 
of the religious community, and I began 
to raise my political consciousness. I was 
thirty-seven, thirty-eight when I began to 
realize that all the poverty that had been 
with me since childhood was a conse- 
quence of the political system in 

Hetween 1970 and 1971 the youth 
started taking over churches, and we be- 
gan to help them. The young men would 
go in the church, and once inside, they 
would just close the door. Then we 
would go out and send them back food 
and drinks. Under Somoza it was very 
difficult to get everyone in the religious 
community involved in this movement. 
We would have meetings of political 
groups. We studied the Bible and lots of 
people went, but when they began to uti- 
lize Biblical teachings to refer to the con- 
temporary political situation, the people 
would become afraid and leave, because 
in Somoza's time you couldn't use those 
words, you couldn't talk about those 
things in those terms, you couldn't have 
groups meeting. So we would do it clan- 
destinely — underground. Sometimes 
we met at our own houses and some- 
times in the church. Not many people 
would know about it. What we did was to 
study the Bible and try to compare it with 
the reality of our lives. 

Already, by 1972, my more mature 
children — I have four sons and two 
daughters — were involved in the com- 
munity-based political groups. I wanted 
my children to study a profession, but I 


knew that, in Nicaragua as it was under 
Somoza, they wouldn't have any scholar- 
ships, and we had no money to put them 
in universities. So, because of the eco- 
nomic situation, we came to the United 
States, and here I began working with 
the church of Santa Barbara in Brooklyn. 
For four years I gave religious instruc- 
tion and taught the Bible and catechism. 
It was in doing this — because I had to 
visit women living alone, women living 
on welfare, and single women with chil- 
dren — that I started seeing all the misery, 
the poverty, and the alienation of the 
people who lived in this country. I always 
kept in communication with the people 
in my communities in Nicaragua and 
kept up with what was happening there, 
and in 1978 we started doing solidarity 
work with Nicaragua. 

WWhen my family and I came here, 
we found it much more difficult than we 
had thought it would be. We didn't know 
the language, and we didn't understand 
the laws. We did have a son already at 
Cornell who was a very good student and 
was lucky enough to have a scholarship, 
and his living here made it easier for the 
rest of us to come and be residents. The 
universities here had told us that with 
what my husband and I were making, we 
would be able to pay for the education of 
our other children. But this was not the 
reality. Both of us together were making 
only $14,000 a year after income tax. 

I worked at a factory on 28th Street be- 
tween 7th and 8th, making pants. I was 
able to do everything, all the parts — zip- 
pers, all of it — but it was always a misery 
what I earned. They would pay 24 cents 
to sew one pair of pants. In order to 
make at least $30, 1 would have to make 
at least two hundred pairs of pants. 


I came from my country with a politi- 
cal consciousness, but when I really be- 
came much more politically conscious 
was as part of the working class in this 
country. I started talking with people 
from Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, and 
elsewhere in Central America and 
started asking questions about their 
countries. I never understood why it was 
that the people from Puerto Rico and the 
Dominican Republic were so much 
more conscious than the others. Maybe 
the conditions there allowed that to hap- 
pen, as opposed to Nicaragua, where 
there had been so much repression. 

My children would work during the 
day and study in the evenings. Most of 
them are now back in Nicaragua. One 
son left the U.S. right after the Triumph 
to participate in the literacy campaign. 
He and our son who had studied philos- 
ophy and literature at Cornell and Yale 
are both part of the international-rela- 
tions department of the Nicaraguan gov- 
ernment. Another son is now mobilized 
with the army, which I just found out yes- 
terday. The youngest son is here studying 
aviation mechanics. One daughter is 
here, married, and the other is working 
in Nicaragua with the Ministry of the 

^fhat I am doing now is working 
with Casa Nicaragua in New York, where 
I am part of the coordinating committee 
and am responsible for finances as a 
bookkeeper. Casa Nicaragua is a cultural 
organization, and through it I'm keeping 
up with the work that Nicaragua needs 
now, which is work that I feel is also part 
of myself. 

It was after the triumph of the Revolu- 
tion that women began to have opportu- 
nities for participation. Before, they 
were not integrated into Nicaraguan so- 
ciety, and now all women — at all social 
levels — participate within the revolu- 
tionary government. For myself, I feel 
very positive about taking on these new 
kinds of responsibilities. I feel that 
through the revolutionary process 
women began to fulfill themselves and 
to achieve a little emancipation. Logically 
it can't yet be total, but as the process ad- 
vances, women also advance with it. 

Of course, changing into the "new 
woman" is difficult. For me, for example, 
the experience of this change didn't hap- 
pen from one day to the next. Many 
women have experienced this phase in 
Nicaragua. For many of them, their chil- 
dren — who were already integrated into 
the struggle — went to fight, and at a 
given time, they backed up their chil- 
dren and began to get involved in the 
revolutionary process themselves. They 

rfe^- -sea 

norma holt is a photographer living in newyork city. 

began to feel that they too have the right 
to be free, to be creative, to demonstrate 
that they have talent and that they could 
contribute a lot to the society. Many 
women entered into the revolution as 
mothers, but others fought in a different 
aspect, as when AMPRUNACS began. 

AMPRUNACS was the first women's 
association to fight against the disap- 
peared (/as desaparecidos) and all the 
peasants' deaths and all the barbaric 
things committed by Somoza. At the time 
AMPRUNACS sprang up, it was made up 
of professional women belonging to the 
petit bourgeoisie. These were the 
women that Somoza feared the most, be- 
cause they were of his own class level. 
Many of these women were mothers, but 
others were young professionals who- 
saw the great injustices which were hap- 
pening, the daily disappearances of our 
youngsters and of the peasants. At first 
they started protesting against so many 
disappearances, and afterwards they be- 
gan to nourish the women from the 
grass-roots base. That's when they began 
to work as couriers, as nurses, as grass- 
roots organizers to raise consciousness. 
They worked in the "safe houses" mainly 
during the insurrection, but at the same 
time, women began to take part in the 
pr6cess as a whole and began to gain 
consciousness. They began to work on 
all the aspects needed during the insur- 
rection, which touched the life of the en- 
tire nation. It was definitely very 
important, the women's participation. 

Others integrated into the struggle 
only to die young, fighting, like Luisa 
Amanda Espinosa, like Aden Siu, like 

| Claudia Chamorro, like so manv m ;: 
o others. Many others were raped ?">' 
| tured, massacred, and jailed for a' In"^ 
f time-like Dora Maria, li ke Doris rf 
g jerino (now head of the Sandinistas 
| lice), who many times was jail m 
> tortured, and everything. We began o 
g see that the Nicaraguan woman, bv fieht 
ing in the forefront of combat, gained 
her rights to participate in all aspects of 

And all this goes on supporting the 
revolutionary process, because in N ica . 
ragua there is a "new man" who is evolv- 
ing, but at the same time the "new 
woman" is evolving also— a woman with 
a different perspective on life, not 
merely the woman who had been onlv 
the instrument for the man, a woman 
doubly exploited. Now there is a new 
woman who can make her own deci- 
sions, a woman who can decide what- 
ever she wants in life. 

iany women are going out for mili- 
tary training and to fight or to work, and 
some men are now staying home. There 
is now a "responsible paternity" law un- 
der which women can make decisions 
about the lives of their children, where 
before it was the case that permission 
had to be asked of the father. Another 
part of this law is that if a man ends the 
relationship with a woman, he has to 
give economic support for the children, 
and this is changing a lot of things in the 
ways that they relate to each other. 

In my own personal example, my hus- 
band and I have been married for thirty- 
five years. If I have a problem with my 
husband, I am now free to tell him. to 
leave. Before, he used to say, "From the 
door of the house out, I am a totally free 
human being. I am married from the 
door in." When I became involved with 
the Nicaraguan women's association 
AMNLAE and all the other groups, he 
used to comment that there was a change 
in me. Now he accepts it, even in cases 
where I have to go to another state to 
give a talk and stay overnight. 

He never understood how much care 
a child needed; he never assumed that 
that was something you had to do. Now 
he says, "How much work! How could 
you do it? Six children!" In other times, if 
I would leave, he would never cook any- 
thing for himself, but now he just fixes 
whatever he can when I'm not around. 
It's all new for him, but he understands 
perfectly well that these changes are for 
the well-being of the people. 

maria lourdes meneses is a member of the coordinat- 
ing committee of casa nicaragua in newyork city. 

















^1 Hfe 




v ; Olive was the victim of a push-in mug- 
ging. A neighbor called Barnaby and An- 
drea before the police did. 
■^."Ybur mother is fine, doing just fine." 
.?{■.'. Andrea worried, but Olive did well. 
-Olive would not be budged from her 
place, her turf, her beautiful home, 
though the neighborhood was a sham- 
bles about her. Her husband's ghost re- 
mained in that apartment. His essence. 
She walked the streets, hunched over, in 
silence, shy now because of her slight 
distortion of speech, her slight limp, 
which did not interfere with the agility of 
her conversation nor her enjoyment of 
■her Friday nights with her daughter and 

ivueredith, too, was glad to visit with 
her grandmother. She found Olive an ex- 
cellent subject for the camera. Olive told 
;;her stories by the hour and posed imp- 
ishly. Meredith watched over Olive as 
iShe did her exercises. Even when the 
therapist did not come, Olive made sure 
do exercise. 

■'{ Olive fired the homemakers the 
pagenq' sent. It was no joke, yet Barnaby 
?and Andrea joked about it. Rosetta lasted 
|?wo days? Joanna, one? Two hours! If they 
'?;Sent a man to wash the windows, Olive 
Panicked. The smell.. . 

"Do you suppose Olive was raped 
when she was mugged?" asked 

% "Nonsense," said Barnaby. 
g "Still," insisted Meredith, "You read 
sabout these things in the newspapers. 
Besides, Grandma's behavior, her nasti- 
n ess towards the helpers, perhaps it all 
"as to do with her defense of herself, the 
Pushing off of the offense of men invad- 
ing the internal regions of her being?" 



"Nonsense," said Barnaby. He read the 
article and looked at the pictures in The 
New York Times that Meredith shoved 
under his eyes. 

Nonsense, Barnaby thought. All Olive 
ever thinks of is herself. It's still the same. 
She wants Andrea back and all to 

Still . . . "Where is it? The money?" The 
hoarseness of the visitation was in Ol- 
ive's voice as she described the abrupt- 
ness of the attack. "Two nice-looking 
men, who would have thought? Just fol- 
lowed me in through the door I un- 
locked downstairs, just followed me 
down the hall, then, right behind me, 
pushed the door behind me, strong- 
armed their way into my interior, the in- 
terior of my rooms, my home ..." As 
Olive shakily put the key in her lock, the 
hoods simply swung the door open be- 
hind her and entered her. . . "the smell, 
always the odor, remains . . ." 

"Yes," said Meredith, "I think there is 
the distinct possibility of rape. It sounds 
to me..." 

"Nonsense," said Barnaby, "Nonsense. 
And I wish you would stop talking about 
such things. It's pretty annoying. What do 
you know about rapes, anyway?" 

"I couldn't breathe. The mattress was 
pushed over me. The heaviness, the 
smells, the strong smells, the intensity. 

helen duberstein's plays have been produced off- 
broadway and her poems and short stories have been 
published in many literary magazines and antholo- 
gies, she is -working on a novel. 

They ripped my brassiere, where I kept 
ten ten-dollar bills secured with a safety 
pin. Threats. Threats. Where is more? 
More? More money?" 

Olive phoned. The phone rang in An- 
drea's dark loft. She was deep at work in 
her studio on a new canvas while carni- 
val music and sounds permeated the 
household from the hi-fi, permeated the 
loft as well as her psyche. The canvas 
burst forth with that hidden force and 
spilled over into the dark loft pierced by 
the telephone's ring. 

«* *fc*arnaby?" she yelled, but 
Barnaby was out. "Damn!" 

Andrea tripped over a misplaced chair 
and the long wire which she had to trace 
by hand in the dark to reach the 

Olive was in pain. "I hear music, An- 
drea, that keeps sifting in. It is a carnival. I 
hear a calliope in the distance." 

Andrea freaked out. By some strange 
set of vibes was Olive tuned into her psy- 
chic wavelength? Her own reality of the 
empty space? Her own real world of the 
canvas and the wild display of color that 
vibrated into the sound and was picked 
up by the music? Her own real world and 
the forms and shapes that Andrea con- 
ceived seemed part and parcel of what 
Olive described over the telephone 
wires from her place miles uptown. Ol- 
ive was frightened. Andrea freaked out. 

"Don't be frightened, Mom," she 
managed to say. "Don't be frightened, 
Mom. In some strange way, I think I 
know just what is happening, just what 
you are going through. It's okay Just take 
it easy, Mom. I'll be up tomorrow, 


Olive wandered off into the hallway of 
her apartment house. She knocked on 
all the doors for company in the middle 
of the night, someone to hold her close. 
The aura of carnival music going on in 
the loft downtown on the flat surface of 
the canvas went on at Olive's head, be- 
tween her eardrums. 

The next morning Olive called franti- 
cally. The neighbor called, also. Olive 
was still in pain, pains all over. When 
Barnaby and Meredith arrived in Olive's 
apartment Olive was dressed and wait- 
ing, stretched out on the davenport in 
her livingroom. Olive kept up a strong 
conversation, particularly about the 
smells, the smells, the smells. 

On a Saturday at the beginning of De- 
cember, Olive entered Hertzl Hospital 
through the emergency room. The snow 
drifts melted with a sudden show of sun- 
shine. It was difficult getting her admit- 
ted. No one in the emergency room was 
in authority. No one wanted to admit Ol- 
ive to the hospital, even though the 
symptoms persisted. The attendant sug- 
gested that Andrea take Olive home. An- 
drea, stranded by the taxi driver, 
stranded by Barnaby, with Meredith, felt 
stranded even by the rows of benches, 
mostly unfilled. 

"Take your mother home. Take her 

**'*«^olda Meier, I know, wants to 
get married, and is only waiting to get 

out of that job to do so. She has a friend." 
Olive winked roguishly at Andrea. 

"Golda Meier has a friend?" 

"Yes! A good friend, boyfriend, a man 
who has loved her and waited for her un- 
til she should be free, and soon she is 
free and she will marry him and they will 
settle down and she will be a balabusta, 
believe me." 

"Mom keeps a good home," Meredith 

Olive was in obvious undifferentiated 
pain that seemed to be everywhere and 
that originated nowhere. She swayed to 
the carnival sounds. She hummed. 

"Take her home," the attendant sug- 
gested. "A little tender loving care, per- 
haps, of the aged, is all that is needed." 

"She is in pain," Andrea insisted. 

"Can't you see she needs help?" asked 
Meredith. Tears streamed from Mere- 
dith's eyes. "What should we do? Mom, 
what should we do?" 

Andrea and Meredith walked out on 
Olive that Saturday night. They left her. 
Olive was not yet admitted but lay 
stretched out on the table, her belong- 
ings piled like rags, a body unidentified, 
left there like on a slab, asleep and 

"You did right to leave her," soothed 

"I felt so bad." 

"Of course you did." 

The fever persisted. No one knew 
what Olive suffered from. All the tests 
proved negative. She was deemed to 
have nothing, only the fever that fluctu- 

ated, came and went for no reason ,,'■" 
any doctor could fathom " that 

"My family is taking me home „; 
claimed Olive. '"<-, 


Ohve went off to the nursing home : 
with no one from the family ;„ a " 

dance. She was placed in a wheelchair 
when a room became available All iS 
possessions dumped into a paper bar. 
were heaped on her lap. She : WaV- 
wheeled down the corridor. Her hat w-,s 
placed precariously atop her head ' ' 
"You know I always use a hat pin " she- 
complained as she rested quietly in 'her 
bed when Andrea went to see lier The 
bed was covered with a pretty white 
blanket with rosebuds. The walls of the 
room were painted a soft orange and 
green. When Olive opened her eves 
again, she smiled at her daughter and 
grinned at the blanket. Both Olive and 
Andrea seemed pacified by the rosebud- 
print blanket. Olive smiled and went 
back to sleep. Andrea left her. 

Andrea brought her mother clothing 
and a magic marker to keep in the draw- 
er in the side table in her room so that all 
her possessions could be marked. 

_§ ust like when you went to camp, 
darling. Remember? But aren't you tak- 
ing me home?" 

"Soon. Later. Some other time." 
Olive rocked herself in her wheel- 
chair. Back and forth, back and forth she 
moved her bulk on the pivot of her hip. 
Davenning? Prayer? She pulled on her 

"Exercising," said Olive. She pulled on 
her fingers one at a time as she at- 
tempted to spread them fanlike. "Exer- 
cise," said Olive as she rolled her head 
and massaged her hands, continuing to 
pull out her fingers, cracking her bones. 
"I won't cost much," she promised, "if 
you take me home. I know I will get bet- 
ter once I have something to do. The bed 
rises during the night. The bed rises dur- 
ing the night and a band plays under it. 
All the loud sounds. All the old loud 
tunes, a carousel. Comos, coinos," she 
whispered, "this place is full of comos." 
"Comos?" Andrea asked. 
"Comos" Olive whispered, indicating 
the pale white forms that slid or slumped 
in their wheelchairs, inertly paying at- 
tention to the vitality of Andrea. 

A color TV blared. The square table- 
covers on the square tables were set up 
for dinner. The aluminum refrigerated 
cart rolled into the room with the trays 
prepared for the patients. 

They moved Olive to the second floor 
where people were more active. Olive 
screamed out, "Take me back. There are 



•as ; 





. IJl0S in the diningroom. Take me back. 

Upstairs they know about my proper 

medication. Take me hack." 
She swaved to the music she heard. 
: "I hope Barnaby forgives me. Andrea. I 

know whv you did not visit me all those 
-vears. It was because 1 was not cheerlul. 1 
= was alwa\'S complaining. 1 won't com- 

nlain anymore. My grandmother lived to 

be ninetv-nine. When she was 104 she 

':.■ .. . ' .... ..:.-:. /'l;.,-,k,„l 

he ninetv-nine. wnen sue was iu-i .sue 

still came to visit, (-limbed the five high 

(lights and the front stoop to our apart- 

;L»nt with her Bible under her arm. 



•/■merit, with her Bible under her arm 

'AVhen she was 104 she looked out ofow 

^window on the top floor and said. 'If: 

such a beautiful world.' 1 never want to 

leave it. 1 never want to leave you." Ol- 

•4ve's eyes shone with the brightness of 

being alive. 

"Thev use hot water where 1 urinate 
"•and cold water everywhere else. They 

don't wipe me," complained Olive. She 

had a bruise on her nose on which the 

dried blood caked. 
"i hit them. 1 hit them before thev 

'can hit me. The comas. Some people are 

born that way," she whispered, "into the 
-best families, into the best of families, 

come these comas. You never know. 
Took. There's a coma. Or. that person 

there ... is not a coma. yet. They work on 
-you to become a coma. I'm going to 

■ write a book. It will be a best seller, a tre- 
mendous book, a best seller, the biggest 

; and best book ever written, a money- 
maker, a best seller, about the comas, the 

-world of the comas." 

Barnaby stopped off in the diner at the 
corner to have a cup of coffee while An- 

; drea went on to see Olive. Olive said. 
"Go to the diner and meet Barnaby. Tell 
him not to come." 

C; "This is the happiest day of my life," 
Olive said when she saw Barnaby come 

'through the door. "This is the happiest 
I've been for the ten months I've been 

- here. Thank you, Andrea, for all the 

- beautiful clothes you bought me. This is 
the happiest I've been in the ten days, ten 

■weeks since I've been here. I think I will 

■ die within two daws." She got into the 
bed when it was time for dinner. The at- 
tendants came to take her out of bed. 
They wheeled her into the diningroom. 

$$he smiled as site was wheeled briskly 
past Andrea and Barnabv 

B-a er leg swelled. There were sores on 
her buttocks. She was getting an experi- 
mental drug, Haldoran. 

"It won't affect her memory, just her 
nerves. Calm her down, Haldoran calms 
the nerves," the doctor explained to 

Olive sat huddled in her wheelchair, 
hugging herself, rocking, rocking, look- 
ing out with keen eyes at the comos. 

"I won't be a como. They will never 
make me into a como. I won't go to the 
physical therapy room. I won't. I won't. I 

Olive was dehydrated. They took her 
off the drug. 

"How dare you?" yelled the doctor. 

Olive was in a private room. Meredith 
took her camera to the nursing home. 
She took pictures of her grandmother. 
Olive posed. She had a sweet, pleased 
smile. Meredith wanted candid shots, 
but Olive loved to strike poses. 

"It's all right, Olive." The nurses tried 
to calm Olive. "Don't rock so. It sets the 
wheelchair to move... Come, now, 
Grammie, eat." 

Off the Haldoran, Olive felt good. "I 
want to go home with Andrea for one day 
and have a doctor in to see me and then 
go home to my house." 

Olive panicked. Holding court with 
her son-in-law, her grandchild, her 
daughter, how fine. She laughed. Mere- 
dith snapped her off guard. "Don't 






"Olive has come ... I have come," Ol- 
ive said, "to rely on Dr. Hertzl, a resident 
here like myself, but disguised as one of 
two doctors who look over me." 

"The man is not a doctor but a patient 
like yourself," insisted Barnaby. 

Olive responded, "I know." Then, she 
called out, "Dr. Hertzl, Dr. Hertzl . . ." 

The man ignored Olive. 

Olive said, "Those two men look over 
me in my pain. They watch over me. 
What would I do without them?" 

Olive's fever persisted. 

"Maybe we will have to transfer her to 
the hospital..." 

Olive rallied. The snows continued. A 
bitter winter. Olive sat in her wheelchair. 
One morning she got up and walked 
with the walker. 

"I fired over twenty maids." 
"* ^^/k/'hy, Mom, why?" 

"They stink. They smoke marijuana. I 
have a pain in my right side," com- 
plained Olive. She gained weight. "I 
know it is the weather that keeps you 
away and not that you don't want to see 
me. I want lighter nightgowns and more 
underwear. I will stay on, providing I get 
put in a room on the second floor. The 
reason is as follows: the room is fine but 
not the help. The help has it in for me. 
The reason the help has it in for me is 
that I was influential with the head nurse 
in having a male attendant fired and the 
others resent it and therefore take things 
out on me. He came in, into my room. He 
held me down by my two shoulders. I 
,. could smell his breath. He had been 
-drinking. I could feel him on me. He 
said, 'Olive Ramkowski, I didn't do any- 
thing to you. I didn't do anything 
to you.'" 

olive's eyes narrowed and her voice 
jtollowed, in imitation of the horror' she 
felt and depicted. 


:y Olive's shoulder was twisted. She 
?fould not move her arm, her right arm. 







J mil m 



"*=a-st? hat school did you go to?" 

Kate wrapped the tie around one wrist and passed it through 
the headboard. Holding onto the tie with one hand and reaching 
for the other wrist, she glanced at the man beneath her. 

"What school did you go to?" 

David stared at the soft spot underneath Kate's left breast and 
somehow was provoked to reply, "Wesleyan." 

She returned to the headboard, placing David's right arm over 
his head along with his left. David's view of Kate's breast was lim- 
ited now, so he concentrated on the concentric almond rings 
leading to her left nipple. Having tied both wrists, Kate finished 
with a firm square knot. David's fingers reached for her— the 
way her breasts hung almost into his face exasperated him— but 
he only felt the silk hold on his hands. It was a blue tie, a deep 
blue tie with tiny red dots. A gift from his aunt. He had never 
particularly cared for it. The colors were too familiar, and most 
of his co-workers had similar ones. It was a very safe, conserva- 
tive tie, fitting for the securely employed, recently arrived. 

Ms. ate's hand passed over his right arm, the soft, pink, fleshy 
inner arm with streaks of obscured blue showing the paleness of 
his skin. David looked up. 

He felt her hand slowly slip to the nape of his neck and saw 
her put her thighs outside of his. 

Their bellies nearly touching, Kate began to kiss the side of his 
neck, her breath hard. 

It started several weeks ago. They agreed to meet for lunch 
and quickly developed an easy flirtation that neither demanded 
nor expected further fuel. In their banter they didn't bother with 
the particulars of their lives. This afternoon, they had a bottle of 

wine with lunch. Not very daring, but certainly provoking When 
they left it was mid-afternoon and cloudy. Thev felt no uneasi 
ness standing outside the restaurant, on a side street, kissing en" 
twining fingers; they made all the gestures that urged immediate 
satisfaction. They waved a cab down and David gave out his ad- 
dress, which was, conveniently, nearby. 

The elevator was their first opportunity for unobserved inti 
macy. When the car stopped, and the doors had not yet opened 
David brushed his mouth over Kate's right ear saying, "the 
right." She wasn't sure what he was referring to and when the 
elevator opened she lurched to the right, but not before leaving 
a lasting impression on David's upper right thigh. 

Once in his apartment, they began to undress each other leav- 
ing a trail of scattered clothing. David steered Kate into the bed- 
room and switched on the stereo as he passed it. The radio was 
on and as Kate pushed David's trousers over his hips, she heard 
"Whites off earth now." They removed the last of their clothing 
On her way to the bed, Kate skirted the dresser and saw a blue 
tie, silk maybe, nestled in tissue. Continuing to fondle David, she 
grabbed the tie and began to think what she could do with a blue 
silk tie. 

^^^S^ou've done this before, haven't you?" David asked, 
still looking up, hands tied above his head. His fingers played 
with the metal spokes of the headboard. Kate bent over the 
wide-eyed David and she kissed him on the mouth. The kiss 
ended; the room was cold and she wanted something to cover 
her bare rump. Turning around for the comforter, she saw the 
view out the window and went to it. David could only look at 
how her back arched as she left the bed and went toward the. 
window. She pressed her palm to the pane, feeling the cool of 
the glass. It was late afternoon now. Traffic was picking up bv the 
river, and if she twisted her head to the right she could follow the 
river almost to the bridge. The brick overhang of the corner 
blocked the rest of the view. Kate felt colder standing by the win- 
dow. She wrapped her arms around her belly, her hands tucked 
into the niches of her elbows, and looked down at the 

David tried to decide what to do. He thought this was a joint 
venture, but maybe the idea of being tied up like this was surren- 
der. Maybe he was supposed to do nothing, or be able to do 
nothing. Just then, Kate returned to the bed, smiled and gave 
David, who had resolved that he would do nothing, a small, 
pressing kiss. Raising herself off the bed, she reached to the floor 
for her stockings and left the room. On her way to the door Kali- 
dressed, gathering lingerie, her skirt and blouse from where 
they were tossed. Her coat and shoes were by the door, and 
when she was assembled, she turned the lock and walked out, 
shutting the door behind her. 

David heard the lock turn and door shut. "Well," he thought, 
"perhaps this is part of it." 

*^4£?hen Kate got to the street she turned around, looked 
up, counted five stories, three windows to the right and saw 
David's bedroom was dark. Silk is supple, she remembered, and 
her knots almost always loosened. She went on to the corner 
and waited for the traffic light to change. Putting one gloved 
hand into a coat pocket, the other pushing blond hair behind 
her left ear, she thought that would be the last time she would 
have wine for lunch. 


stM- : 







sk- : 





; in- . 















I" ' 

this morning I asked my mother if I 
could go visit Boris and she said that she 
had forgotten to tell me that he had 
passed away. Then, I asked my nurse, Jo- 
hanna, where Boris had passed away to, 
arid Johanna told me that meant that lie 
was dead. Leslie's father died when we 
were in third grade, but he's the only 
other dead person I know. Boris was 
tyitcb older than Leslie's father. Boris 
told me he was seventy-two, but he 
wasn't any taller than I am and I just 
turned eleven. Last summer I was ten, 
and when he took his baseball cap off, 
the tops of our heads lined up. Now I'm 
eleven, and if he weren't dead, maybe I'd 
teas tall as he is even with his baseball 

£-'Iwish Boris wasn't dead. Leslie is in 
Nantucket. Christopher is in camp. Jean- 
Louis and Nicole think I'm a sissy be- 
cause Mommy worries I'll get run over if 
I play in the street with them. The old 
ladies in black that knit by the little 
iChapel give me the creeps. I don't have 
many other people to talk to here in 
France. Often, I talk to Johanna but if I 
:gjggle with her too much, Mommy gets 
;ffiad. Mommy gets jealous or something. 
Like yesterday, when Johanna was telling 
me a story about being eleven years old 
in Germany, and Mommy came in and 
made that clicking noise with her tongue 
and asked why, since it was already eight 
clock, I hadn't been sent to her room to 
% good-night. 

Now, I wish Boris was still alive. I 
f§juess, for a while, I did sort of wish he 
was dead. I mean, I told Leslie, my winter 
"est friend, that I wished Boris was dead. 
should never have said that. I hope Les- 


never, ever tells anvone. When 1 get 

back I'll make her promise not to. It'l 
hav e to be my Big Secret. 

barbara friedman is an artist living in newyork city. 

J ohanna told me that everyone has a 
Big Secret. Her Big Secret is that, though 
she loves me very much, she would 
rather have been an actress than a little 
girl's governess. 

I don't know why Boris died. I asked 
Johanna why, and she said, "He was old, 
liebchen." 'Liebchen' sort of means 'dar- 
ling' in German and that is what Johanna 
likes to call me when she feels sorry for 
me. She wouldn't feel so sorry for me if 
she'd heard what I told Leslie, but I don't 
think that's what made Boris die. I mean, 
he couldn't have died just because I told 
Leslie that I kind of wished he was dead. I 
wonder if he had his baseball cap on 
when he died. I think he wore it all the 
time. Once he asked me if I wanted it. I 
said yes, and wore it at his house while I 
drank my grenadine, but then I gave it 
back to him when Johanna picked me up 
because I knew Mommy wouldn't let me 
wear it at home. 

1 won't get to wear his cap and drink 
grenadine with him anymore. I won't get 
to hear him read the stories that he wrote 
for me and about me — like the one he 
called "Rebecca and the Lion," where I 
save a gentle lion from a mean lion- 
tamer — and I won't be able to read him 
the stories I make up — like the one 
called "Annette and Alicia," where a fam- 
ily adopts an orphaned girl because their 
daughter is an only child and lonely, or 
"Annette and Alicia Run Away," where the 
two girls run away to the circus because 
they don't like their mother. He'll never 
call me "My poetess, Rebecca" again. Jo- 
hanna told me that a poetess was a girl 
poet and that the name should make me 
very proud. Boris started calling me that 
when I was about seven and a half, and I 
showed him a poem about a hamster that 

Dariel Dodge had given me for my 
seventh birthday but that Mommy had 
said was dirty and made me give back to 
Dariel. You know, he shouldn't really 
have continued to call me "My poetess, 
Rebecca" because I didn't write many 
more poems. I guess he could have 
called me his painter, Rebecca, since it's 
already been a long time since he started 
letting me use his paints. 

last summer and the summer before 
and the summer before and the summer 
before and even before that, Boris and I 
painted together. I'd make up something 
and paint it, like a faraway hilly place 
where it rained pink rain or a stupid- 
looking blue goose with green and or- 
ange feet, and Boris would return to an 
oil painting he'd begun before I'd ar- 
rived. Usually a painting of a naked lady. 
Now my mother has those kinds of pic- 
tures at home, so I guess a lot of people 
like painting them. Still, Leslie told me it 
was gross to have naked people on the 
wall. I asked Mommy if that was true and 
she said, "Not if it's art." Then I told Boris 
what Mommy had said, and he laughed 
and answered, "Who cares about art? I 
like having pretty models around." I 
asked him what he meant. He said he 
needed them around so he could see 
what he was painting. I was really sur- 
prised when he said that. I guess I'd 
always figured that he made those 
ladies up. 

I can't believe that I can't go paint with 
Boris this summer. When I told Leslie I 
hated him now and wanted him to die, I 
really didn't mean it. I don't know any- 
one else who likes to paint. I wonder if 
Mommy cried when she found out Boris 
was dead. I know she's known him 
forever. That's why she lets him give me 
what she calls "art classes." Johanna told 


me that Mommy's known Boris since she 
was a little girl, since he first left Russia 
for France. It's funny that Boris is Russian 
and wears a baseball cap. 
When I told Leslie that my best friend 
during the summer was named Boris 
Smirnoff, that he was Russian, that he was 
very old, that he wasn't much taller than I 
am, that he wore a baseball cap, that he 
painted naked ladies, and that he let me 
drink as much grenadine as I wanted, 
Leslie said that he must be a Communist. 
I asked Mommy if Leslie was right, and 
she said no, he's a White Russian. It was 
Johanna's day off so I couldn't ask her 
what a White Russian was. Instead, I 
asked daddy when he got home. He 
said a White Russian was a drink. 
Mommy made that clicking noise with 
her tongue and said he wasn't funny. I 
didn't think he was funny either except 
that Mommy never thinks he's funny and 
I usually do. 

Mommy doesn't think much is funny. 
She's French and that's why we go to 
France every summer. Daddy's Ameri- 
can, and that's why we live in New York 
most of the year. Boris is Russian but he 
lives in France instead of Russia because 
he's a White Russian. I finally told Leslie 
that Boris wasn't a Communist, and she 
said, "So what? Johanna is a Nazi. She's 
German, isn't she?" I asked Johanna if 
she was a Nazi, and she started crying. I 
told Leslie about it and Leslie said she 
didn't care, all Germans were Jew-haters. 
Once when Johanna screamed at me I 
called her a Jew-hater. She cried again 
and I felt bad. 

I guess I miss Leslie. But she thinks she 
knows everything and sometimes she's 
wrong. Like, in first grade when Leslie 
said that Mommy was divorced because 
she wasn't American. Johanna told me 
that Leslie was definitely wrong. Mommy 
wasn't American but she wasn't divorced 
either. She was married to Daddy. 

How, I know that Leslie wasn't all 
wrong. Mommy isn't divorced, she is 
married to Daddy, but she did have an- 
other husband before Daddy, before me. 
I found that out last summer from Chris- 
topher. I found out a lot of things last 
summer. Christopher is my age and he's 
English, but he lives here in France with 
his grandparents. They live down the 
street from Boris. He's my second-best 
summer friend, after Boris. I'm talking 
about when Boris was still my summer 
best friend, before I stopped liking him 
and, of course, before he died. Anyway, 
Christopher is in camp this summer and 
that's one of the reasons I'm so lonely. So, 
here's what happened. Christopher had 


come over for lunch or something — this 
was early last summer — and he pointed 
to those red geraniums, the ones planted 
right in the middle of the garden, and 
said real loud that that was where my 
mother had buried her first husband. 
The one she'd set fire to. The one she'd 
burned to death. I told Christopher that 
he was stupid, that his mother was fat and 
didn't want him, and that's why she gave 
him to his grandparents. Christopher hit 
me kind of hard and left. I asked Mommy 
if she had had another husband and, if 
so, had she burned him to death? 
Mommy didn't cry or get mad or say it 
wasn't true. She didn't even make that 
clicking sound with her tongue. She just 
said something like, where does that 
child get such wild ideas? I asked Jo- 
hanna if that was Mommy's Big Secret. Jo- 
hanna said she wasn't sure if it was her 
Big Secret, but that Mommy had not 

burned her first husband, he'd been cre- 
mated and his ashes were in a box in the 
garden. Then J ohanna told me what be- 
ing cremated was and i n m\ people 
prefer that to letting their corpse rot 
away. I don't know how I'll feel. I don't 
want worms to eat my body but I don t 
really want to be burned either. I do 
know, though, that if I had my husband's 
ashes in a box in my garden it would be 
my Big Secret. 

I know Boris' M:; :H\ hi ltn- l.»t lime 
I saw him, he said. "Nil* Ki-Kvcj, let* 
keep this our Big v«mi I didn't exactly 
know why it w.ii MMf" ■■ >\i u> l'e our 15 '^ 
Secret, but I a.".nal i«' kip n It,,llK1 
know more nov. aiuiihai'swh} ItolcJLo- 
lie in school i\ii- w:n •!■-"■ ' * orl °[ 
wished Boris «.hiI«! U" And "• " 

I'm back in France and he's not .here. 
Us ilit-lKniiininy of another summer w- 


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man body was wonderful to paint, and to 
paint it well you had to look at it hard. 
And that you couldn't paint someone 
with clothes on if you didn't understand 
what they looked like with their clothes 
off. But this was Mommy with her clothes 
off. I think that then Boris asked me if I 
thought that Mommy had had a pretty 
body. I said I guessed so. He said, "Would 
you look at those great breasts and that 
wonderful mound between her legs!" I 
asked him what he meant by a wonderful 
mound, and he said that when little girls 
became women they grow a triangle of 
hair between their legs. I said I didn't 
have any hair there. He said, oh, are you 
sure, can I take a look? I said I guessed so. 
I pulled my shorts and underpants off 
and he bent way down to look. He 
looked very closely — like he'd told me 
you have to look at something when 
you're going to paint it — and said, no, 
you don't have any hair there yet. But you 
will. Then I felt him lick me where he 
said I would get hair and I felt very 
strange. He asked me if I knew how chil- 
dren were made and I told him that Les- 
lie had said you put two seeds in a lady's 
stomach. Boris said, no, that wasn't really 
it. I said that actually Christopher had 
said something about going to the bath- 
room together a few years ago, but his 
grandmother had walked in right away. 
Boris said that Christopher was quite a 
little man, and I put on my shorts, and he 
went to get me some more grenadine. 
Then we sat down to paint and he said, 
this will be our secret, Okay? 


cation, and the very- last time I saw him 
was two days before the end of last sum- 
mer's vacation. Johanna had dropped me 
off at his house before lunchtime. He 
had salami and peaches ready. I drank 
lots of grenadine and started to com- 
plain about stuff to him. 1 always loved to 
complain about things to Boris. When I 
was eight, I complained that my nose was 
too wide — a little broad, Mommy had 
said — and Boris told me to sleep with a 
clothespin on it for a month. Johanna 
found out pretty soon and wouldn't let 
me do it anymore. Mommy never found 
out. But I think it worked, I think my 
nose is thinner. Anyway, that day I told 
Boris about how J ean-Louis and Nicole 
got to drink wine and coffee and play in 
the village streets 'til it got dark outside, 
and how, of course, I didn't get to do any 
of those things. Boris told me that their 
wine was mostly water, their coffee was 

judy glantzmaii has exhibited widely in 
the united states and europe. 

filled with milk and that, anyway, they 
were French and 1 wasn't. I said, so what, 
Mommy's French, isn't she? Then, Boris 
said, yes she is, but their mother is more 
relaxed than yours. He said that my 
mother was never very relaxed, even 
when she was young, and that if she had 
been, she and he might have had a good 
time together. I asked him what he 
meant by a good time and he smiled and, 
instead of answering my question, said 
that I sort of looked like Mommy. Then, I 
asked him if he'd ever painted Mommy. 
He said, "Sure, many times." He asked 
me if I wanted to see a painting of 
Mommy when she was a lot younger and 
I said, "Yes, I'd love to." S o, he went to 
his back room and came back with a 
painting of a lady that sort of looked like 
Mommy. Except the lady was naked. 
Boris asked me if I liked it. I said I didn't 
know. He'd told me before that the hu- 

1 kept our secret, but last fall, after I got 
back to New York and to school and to 
Leslie, I stopped liking Boris as much. I 
felt weird about his painting Mommy na- 
ked and I felt weird about his licking me 

One day at recess, I told Leslie that 
Boris wasn't my summer best friend any- 
more. I didn't tell her why, and she said it 
was because he was a Communist. That 
shows how much she knows! I didn't 
bother to tell her how dumb she is some- 
times, I just said that I sort of wished that 
Boris would get sick and drop dead. 
«fi.nd then Leslie — Leslie, of all people — 
looked shocked and said that you should 
never, ever say that about anyone, not 
even about Communists or Nazis. I guess 
she had a point because, now, Boris is 
dead, and it's really, really important that 
no one ever know what I said to Leslie. I 
must remember first thing when I get 
back to tell her that it's our Big Secret and 
that she absolutely has to keep it. 




"he 60-minute film ACTING OUR AGE is the result of a col- 
laboration among several Bay Area women filmmakers: Direc- 
tor/Producer Michal Aviad, Editor Deborah Hoffman, 
Cinematographer Frances Reid, Associate Producer Debra 
Chasnoff and Co-Writer Deborah Rosenfelt. 


sixteen million women in the United States are over the 
age of 64. By the year 2005, there will be 25 million. 

• Eighty percent of people over the age of 65 who live alone are 
women. In this age group, there are five times more widows 
than widowers. 

• Over half of all women over the age of 65 live on $550 a month 
or less. 

• Over two million people are providing unpaid care for frail el- 
derly at home; 75% of these caretakers are women. 

(Sources: Census Bureau and The Older Women's League) 

Besides the alarming economic reality and increasing isola- 
tion they face, older women also struggle for personal dignity 
against demeaning stereotypes. In our culture, older women are 
usually portrayed as ugly, wicked, miserable, or pathetic. From 
fairy tales to advertising, our society projects anxieties about ag- 

ing and death onto older women. 


Over 200 women in the Bay Area were interviewed to help 
crystallize the focus of ACTING OUR AGE and to find the six 
women who are featured in the film. Organizations such as The 
Gray Panthers, The Older Women's League, Options for Women 
over 40, and many local senior centers helped make the contacts 
for these interviews. 

Funding for ACTING OUR AGE came from more than four- 
teen foundations, and from several hundred individuals who 
contributed to the film at different work-in-progress screenings 
in the community. 


The six women in Acting Our Age come from diverse racial, 
ethnic, and class backgrounds, and have varied kinds of relation- 
ships with mates, family, and community. They speak candidly 
about topics rarely discussed openly by any of us but which are 
especially taboo for older women in our culture: changes in 
their looks, aloneness, sexuality, money, death. 

The film opens with a sequence of old women dancing. We 
see full shots of the group intercut with close-ups of faces, hands, 
arms, and feet. This scene dissolves into illustrations of old hags 
from fairy tales. We hear a mother's voice reading fairy tales 
about ugly, wicked old witches. After this opening, we move into 
the first section of the film which deals with _jj^>ppeamnce 
and Self-image. The participants in the film are introduced and 
shed light on the relationships between changes in their looks 
and their sense of self. 

The next section concentrates on Relationships and Familial 



directorl producer mkhal aviad is a 12-year-old film- 
maker from israel who now lives in sanfrancisco. she 
has worked on social-issue documentaries for 10 

editor deborah hoffman has been working in film 
production and post-production for the last eight 
years, her credits as an editor include the times of 
harvey milk. 

cinematographer frances reid has been involved in 
film production and distribution for the past sixteen 
years, she was the cinematographer for the times of 
harvey milk. 

associate producer debra chasnoffhas worked in film, 
radio, and publishing for the last ten years, she co- 
produced, directed, and edited the award-winning 
choosing children. 

co-writer deborah rosenfelt is professor of women 
studies at san francisco state university , coordinator 
of the women studies program, an editor of feminist 
studies, and contributing editor to the women's 
studies quarterly. 


Roles. It looks at the changes in ideas and identities the partici- 
pants in the film experience as they age. The film explores both 
the loneliness some of the women face as well as the relation- 
ships through which they do find intimacy — with a partner, fam- 
ily members and friends. The third theme that the film explores 
has to do with the Struggle for Survival. It explores housing, eco- 
nomic, and health issues faced by participants in the film. The 
final part of the film looks at the options and needs the women 
in the film have for Community and vocational outlets. The film 
ends with the raucous 65th birthday party of one of the 

The film interweaves the insights of the six women with foot- 
age of everyday life: eating alone, having a picnic on the roof 
with a New Wave granddaughter, stretching in the morning to 
ward off the pain of arthritis. It also captures some poignant mi- 
lestones: a widow's move from an upper-class neighborhood to 
low income senior housing; another woman canceling an ap- 
pointment to have a facelift; a third woman's decision to partici- 
pate in a march protesting federal budget cuts. Though very 
different from each other, they share a commitment to stay con- 
nected with others and to continue the quest for meaning in 
their lives. 

contact TJoe Older Women's Film Project, 131 Concord Street, 
San Francisco, CA94112, (415)469-7532. 


Lesbians Over 


For an anthology, we are collecting 
accounts of love between women over 
sixty, by women over sixty, for their unique 
perspective on our loving lives. We are 
interested in reading your material. Send 
your poems, short prose pieces, letters, 
diary entries, songs, photos and draw- 
ings. Photocopies, please. Include S.A.S.E. 
Deadline extended to Crones Day- 
Halloween 1988. Send material to 
OLD LOVERS, c/o WomanSpirit, 2000 King 
Mountain Trail, Sunny Valley, OR 97497. 

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Connexions #24 
proudly presents: 

in the 

Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature 

Volume 7, Number 1, Spring 1988 

Cathleen M. Bauschatz 

In May, 1987 Connexions sent out a call for entries 
to women artists in Africa, Asian, Australia, Latin 
America and Europe. The response was very excit- 
ing! Connexions #24 features controversial and pro- 
vocative artwork from women all over the world plus 
an international resource list for women artists. 

□ Please send me copies at $3.00 + .75 postage each. 

LJ I would like more information about 
Connexions, An International Women's Quarterly 

Carol A. Bock 

Alice Falk 

Isobel Grundy 

Jennifer Jordan 

Natalie Schroeder 

Claudia Tate 

'"Plaisir et profficf in the 
Reading and Writing of 
Marguerite de Valois" 

"Gender and Poetic Tradition: 
The Shaping of Charlotte 
Bronte's Literary Career" 

"Elizabeth Barrett Browning 
and Her Prometheuses: Self- 
Will and a Woman Poet" 

"Sarah Gardner: 

'Such Trumpery' or 'A Lustre 

to Her Sex'?" 

"Feminist Fantasies: Zora 
Neale Hurston's Their Eyes 
Were Watching God" 

"Feminine Sensationalism, ; 
Eroticism, and Self-Assertion: 
M. E. Braddon and Ouida" 
Review Essay 

"Reshuffling the Deck; Or, 
(Re)Reading Race and Gender 
in Black Women's Writing" 



City, St.,ZIP_ 

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]OUi Anniversary 

JWliat is feminist art? Or. maybe, what is 

"post-feminist art, if there is such a thing. 
The 10th Anniversary collective is taking 
a look at the issues that won't go away, 
from women's art (and place in the art 
world) to The Goddess to racism to 

■^international politics to women's bodies 
and nurturing. Replies to our question, 
"what is feminist art," will be published 
and plenty of art by old friends and new 

|. contributors. 

''Women on Men 

-■Women have always had plenty to say 
*:.on the subject of the other. WOMEN 

ON MEN will deal with male/female 
concerns as they relate to the '80s and 
beyond. Topics will address such broad 
issues as race, culture, politics, power 
and the arts. Focused topics might in- 
clude families, AIDS, fantasies, feminist 
theory, sports, sex, childcare, men on 
the job, and the new conservatism. 



How has school changed your life? Why 
do so many women study art (and so 
many men end up showing, publishing, 
performing)? Do you have to go to 
school to make it? What's it like being 
the only woman teacher, student, mar- 
ried woman, mother in your class? Did 
you ever have an influential woman 
professor (or primary school teacher)? 
What about education in general? 

M^^mJ mu 


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